HOYLAKE, England (AP) — The ovations from the packed galleries remain as warm as ever for Tom Watson at the British Open. His scoring continues to be just as impressive, too.
The 64-year-old Watson extended his record of being the oldest man to make the cut at the game’s oldest major when he shot a 1-over 73 on Friday. That put him at 2-over 146, just on the cut line.
“Let’s see what happens on the weekend,” the five-time British Open winner said, with that glint in his eye. “See if the old guy can maybe get it rolling a little bit.”
Playing a brand of “old man’s golf,” as he put it, Watson outlasted Masters champion Bubba Watson as well as Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Harris English, three guys looking to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team captained by Watson.
The way Watson has been hitting the ball this week, he wouldn’t look out of place on the team at Gleneagles in September. “I’m thinking about picking the captain,” he said, laughing.
He needed a par 5 at No. 18 to stay at Hoylake for another two days and, to the delight of the spectators filling the horseshoe stand around the green, he avoided trouble and made it with ease.
“It was pretty special playing with Tom, and the reception he got,” Jim Furyk said. “And to watch him grind it out and make a birdie on the way in and make the cut was pretty cool. “I was pulling for him pretty hard on No. 18.”
Royal Liverpool is not among the venues where Watson lifted the claret jug between 1975 and ’83, but he is as popular here as at Muirfield, Royal Birkdale or anywhere else on the Open rotation.
He acknowledged that he has been looking up at the stands more this year, soaking up the tournament’s special atmosphere in his next-to-last appearance at a British Open, provided, of course, he doesn’t finish in the top 10 at St. Andrews in 2015.
And who would bet against that?
“I am enjoying it,” he said. “Today on the practice range, my swing turned around. I really started hitting the ball well. … It was the best warm-up session I’ve had all year. I felt very good going out to the golf course.”
When he bogeyed No. 10 after hitting his gap wedge over the green from the middle of the fairway, Watson was missing the cut line at 3 over and under pressure.
He hit every fairway after that, picking up that crucial birdie at No. 14 and parring his way home. Two solid shots at No. 18 allowed him to enjoy the ovation from all sides as he approached the green.
“It was a pleasure playing with a little bit of heat on me to make the cut and doing so well, especially coming down the stretch,” he said.
The headaches over Ryder Cup selection can wait for a few days. Watson has something else to occupy his mind at the British Open this weekend.