It wasn’t the finish that he - or his legions of fans - would have wanted, but five-time champion Tom Watson bowed out of his very last Open in the gloaming at the end of the weather-plagued second round with style.
Amid confusion about whether Watson would get through his 18 holes before the horn blew -signaling an end to play for the day - spectators re-lined the 18th fairway as the American unleashed his last drive and made his way over the Swilcan Bridge.
Sixty-five-year-old Watson, who had played on an invitation from the R&A (past champions are now exempted until the age of 60), had talked confidently earlier in the week about competing for the title. But a first-round 76 ruined any hope of that and the immediate past American Ryder Cup captain bowed out on the Friday with all the grace that the Scottish galleries have come to expect of him over the years.
"The crowds are very nice, very appreciative, and I'm appreciative back. I respect what they're doing for me," said Watson. "You know, you give respect to people who give you respect. That's what I've done. That's what I do."
Watson appeared in his last Open Championship 40 years after his first win, at Carnoustie in 1975. His next triumph came over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977 in the fabled "Duel in the Sun." He won three more times, in 1980, 1982 and 1983 - and memorably lost a play-off to Stewart Cink, at the age of 59, at Turnberry in 2009.
"It’s all a joy,” Watson said after he had sunk the final putt. “There’s no reason to be sad. I played a game for a living and I did pretty well at it.” “Now it’s time,” he added, “to get on to the real golf tournament.”
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