War­ren at the sharp end as he soaks up pres­sure

Five-time cham­pion Wat­son bows out of the Open Cham­pi­onship

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - NICK RODGER GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Early-starter storms up the leader­board

ON a day of de­lays and dis­rup­tion in the weather-hit 144th Open Cham­pi­onship at St An­drews, Marc War­ren de­clared that he is ready for a week­end as­sault on the Claret Jug af­ter the Scot tucked him­self in among the club­house fron­trun­ners.

As tor­ren­tial rain forced an early sus­pen­sion of over three hours in the morn­ing, play went on un­til dark­ness brought a halt to pro­ceed­ings last night with a host of play­ers still need­ing to com­plete their sec­ond rounds this morn­ing.

That num­ber in­cluded the cham­pi­onship leader Dustin John­son, who was 10-un­der through 13 holes, Paul Lawrie, two fur­ther back af­ter 12, and Jor­dan Spi­eth, who was five-un­der with five to play. In the near dark­ness, mean­while, Tom Wat­son com­pleted an emo­tional swan­song in a cham­pi­onship he has won five times and en­joyed a fi­nal wave on the Swilcan Bridge de­spite the gath­er­ing gloom.

At the head of the stand­ings, War­ren was among the for­tu­nate early starters who com­pleted their sec­ond rounds on sched­ule and the 34-year-old Glas­gow man main­tained his push at the sharp end of af­fairs with a three-un­der 69 for a seven-un­der ag­gre­gate of 137 which left him two be­hind club­house leader, Danny Wil­lett.

“I’ve got ab­so­lutely noth­ing to lose this week­end,” stated War­ren, a three­time win­ner on the Euro­pean Tour who is play­ing in only his third Open Cham­pi­onship. “I’m just en­joy­ing the sit­u­a­tion I’m in. I know it’s very early days as far as the tour­na­ment goes but I’m re­ally rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity ahead of me this week­end.”

In last year’s cham­pi­onship at Hoy­lake, Royal & An­cient of­fi­cials in­tro­duced a two-tee start dur­ing the third for the first time in the event’s history as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure due to the men­ace of a loom­ing storm.

But Peter Daw­son, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the R&A, stated that they would not be em­ploy­ing that tac­tic this week in an ef­fort to make up for lost time. Play in the re­main­ing matches of the sec­ond round was set to re­sume this morn­ing at 7am with the third round be­ing con­tested in a three-ball for­mat.

“We do have the abil­ity to go into Mon­day but we cer­tainly hope not to,” said Daw­son, who is over­see­ing his fi­nal Open Cham­pi­onship be­fore his re­tire­ment.

Sir Nick Faldo, the Open cham­pion at St An­drews in 1990, marked his fi­nal ap­pear­ance in the cham­pi­onship at the Old Course with a spir­ited 71 that in­cluded a birdie on the treach­er­ous Road Hole 17th.

Faldo, who missed the cut af­ter an open­ing 83 and still has an ex­emp­tion for another two years, al­most with­drew ahead of his sec­ond round with a be­wil­der­ing in­jury af­ter he im­paled his fin­ger on the antler of a wall-mounted deer head while tak­ing his shirt off in his room.

“My cut was open again in the morn­ing, so I went back to the hos­pi­tal and had it glued again and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Faldo, who ar­rived back at St An­drews just 45 min­utes be­fore his tee-time.

“My kids looked at me and said, ‘Dad, what are we do­ing?’ And I said, I don’t know. They said, ‘I think you should go.’ When your kids say you’re go­ing, you’re go­ing, aren’t you? That was the goal, to stand on that bridge and get that pic­ture.”

HE had al­ready pretty much con­ceded the day to Old Fa­ther Time but there was one last race against the clock for Tom Wat­son in St An­drews last night.

In many ways it was typ­i­cal it turned out that way be­cause for all that he has long been among the all-time greats of any sport, let alone golf, its home town has never been as wel­com­ing to him as it might have been.

Unique among mod­ern Scot­tish Open venues in not hav­ing the five time cham­pion on its roll of hon­our the Old Course is a place at which he twice con­tended and twice failed.

In 1978 he went out in the fi­nal group only to fall out of con­tention be­fore the turn as Jack Nick­laus gained a form of re­venge for the pre­vi­ous year’s de­feat in the ‘Duel in the Sun’, while six years later he had to give way on the day Seve Balles­teros struck his iconic pose on the 18th green.

Had all gone to plan this time he would have ar­rived on the 18th hole in early evening with the grand­stands still packed and vast gal­leries in pur­suit.

The Old Course is a capri­cious old girl, how­ever, who does not like to be taken for granted and so she had the fi­nal say, or at least the el­e­ments that cre­ated her did, as much of the morn­ing’s play was washed away.

So, in­stead of 1.34pm he set off in­stead at 4.48pm. With 10.47pm the of­fi­cial time for sunset in St An­drews last night and rounds tak­ing around five hours the arith­metic im­me­di­ately demon­strated that this was to be a dif­fer­ent sort of fin­ish to that an­tic­i­pated. Ei­ther it would be the latest of fin­ishes or he would have to make a ridicu­lously early Satur­day start. A po­ten­tial anti-cli­max ei­ther way.

It be­gan pretty much as Wat­son had in­tended as he hid a gift for starter Ivor Rob­son, also tak­ing part in his last Open, be­hind his back be­fore pre­sent­ing it to him on the tee in a touch­ing ex­change.

Af­ter a suit­ably warm welcome for both his ar­rival on that tee and his open­ing drive he set off and, soon af­ter­wards, there was another poignant en­counter as a way­ward drive, not his but that of fel­low mul­ti­ple Open cham­pion Nick Faldo, gave them a chance to shake hands as their paths crossed at the 16th and third holes.

It was a day Faldo had once sug­gested might have been his last at the Open be­fore chang­ing his mind and he may have another re-think af­ter per­form­ing as he did, clos­ing with a sub-par round to ease the pain of the 83 he reg­is­tered the pre­vi­ous day and the visit he paid to hos­pi­tal to have a cut hand treated ahead of the round.

In pure golf­ing terms it was to be a rather more tor­tu­ous evening for Wat­son.

The emo­tion was bound to over­come him such was the re­cep­tion he re­ceived as he ar­rived at ev­ery tee and walked down ev­ery fair­way and a three putt at the first was a sign of what was to come.

He bat­tled man­fully to drop only one more by the turn and there were birdie chances at both the ninth and 10th, but there were tears in his eyes as a spon­ta­neous stand­ing ova­tion from a packed grand­stand greeted him on the 11th tee and that, fol­lowed by a long wait, with two groups al­ready wait­ing there, per­haps sapped the last of his energy.

Since he had said ear­lier in the week that in close to 40 years of vis­it­ing he had never worked out how to play the 12th hole, there was a look of res­ig­na­tion on his face even as spec­ta­tors shouted ‘great shot’ as his drive looked to be per­fectly down the mid­dle and, al­most in­evitably, it found a fair­way bunker.

Fol­low­ing the re­sul­tant bo­gey he sal­vaged one last par at the 13th be­fore bo­gey­ing ev­ery re­main­ing hole to fin­ish dead last in the field.

Yet, in that fi­nal con­test, he claimed his vic­tory be­cause he made it to the 18th hole with just enough light for those his­toric pho­to­graphs to be taken and many who love their golf, shared the mo­ment with him.

As dusk gave way to dark­ness on a mid-sum­mer Scot­tish evening it was a fit­ting fin­ish for this great­est of links golfers.

TWI­LIGHT ZONE: Wat­son stops to pose on the iconic Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course at St An­drews in his fi­nal Open Cham­pi­onship.

TAKE A BOW: Tom Wat­son says good­bye on the eigh­teenth green last night

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