Tied for the British Open lead, Tom Watson takes aim at becoming oldest major champion

By Paul Newberry, AP
Saturday, July 18, 2009

Watson takes his shot at history

TURNBERRY, Scotland — Mathew Goggin of Australia has pulled even with Tom Watson for the lead at the British Open, shooting a 1-under 69 in blustery conditions at Turnberry.

The 59-year-old Watson was hanging on Saturday in his bid to become the oldest major champion in golf history. While he had only one birdie, three nifty par saves over the first 14 holes kept him 2-over for the day and solidly in contention for an improbable sixth Open championship.

Goggin was in the clubhouse with a 3-under 207 after one of only five below-par rounds on a warm, sunny day in which the breeze off the Irish Sea whipped across the course. The 35-year-old Aussie, a journeyman on the PGA Tour, had a couple of birdies on the back side but will best be remembered for his dash up the fairway at No. 16 to mark his ball before it rolled back into Wilson’s Burn.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) — Tom Watson made the turn in the third round of the British Open holding a one-stroke lead over England’s Ross Fisher on Saturday, staying on course to become the oldest major champion in golf history.

The 59-year-old Watson, a five-time Open champion, closed the front side at Turnberry with a bogey at No. 9, missing an 8-foot putt after his approach shot skidded off the back of the green. But he had the lead all to himself with a 4-under total through 45 holes.

Par was a good score on this day. A stiff breeze off the Irish Sea whipped across the course, toughening things up considerably on the sort of warm, sunny day that led to this seaside spot to be dubbed “the sunshine coast of Scotland.”

The weather surely brought back memories for Watson, who defeated Jack Nicklaus in the epic “Duel in the Sun” in 1977, when the Open first came to Turnberry. Watson also won golf’s oldest championship in 1975, ‘80, ‘82 and ‘83 — providing the bulk of his eight major titles.

Now he’s making a run at an improbable ninth — just three years before he’s eligible to start drawing Social Security.

Watson parred the first five holes, took a bogey at No. 6, then made a two-putt birdie at the par-5 eighth. He was 1-over 36 at the turn — then again, no one in the top 10 was under par for the day.

Steve Marino, who was tied with Watson for the 36-hole lead, was among the group two shots back after a horrendous start. The 29-year-old American had three straight bogeys and a double bogey over the first five holes, knocking his overall score back to even par.

But Marino calmed his nerves with a virtual tap-in eagle at No. 8 and was 2 under at the turn.

Fisher shot 35 on the front side, his only stumble coming at No. 5 when he missed a short par putt.

Mark Calcavecchia, who won the Open 20 years ago right up the road at Troon, also had a shot at becoming the oldest major winner ever. The 49-year-old American was one stroke back at the start of the round and only two behind after a 37 over the outward nine.

Julius Boros holds the record for oldest major champion. He was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.

Padraig Harrington’s hopes for a third straight Open title faded with a dismal 6-over 76. The Irishman had hoped to make a run at becoming the first player since Peter Thomson in 1954-56 to win the claret jug three years in a row.

But Harrington was never in serious contention after an opening 69, and a trio of three-putt holes ruined any chances of making a weekend run. He was at 9-over 219.

“It wasn’t my day,” Harrington said. “I’m happy with my ball striking. Not so happy with my mental side of the game. I always play well when I’m up on working on the mental side of the game, and that needs to be tidied up.”

At least Harrington made it to the weekend.

Tiger Woods, a three-time Open champion and the overwhelming favorite, failed to make the cut — only the second time that’s happened in a major since he turned pro. There were extenuating circumstances the last time, when he played the 2006 U.S. Open shortly after the death of his father.

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