x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Tom Watson is the ace of hearts

The 61-year-old American golfer got the biggest cheer of the day with his hole-in-one on the sixth at the British Open.

Tom Watson admits he could not actually see his hole-in-one go down.
Tom Watson admits he could not actually see his hole-in-one go down.

Tom Watson is a man with an uncanny ability to steal the show at the British Open.

Two years ago the veteran golfer produced a riveting story as he almost won the tournament at Turnberry at the age of 59, missing a putt to take the title on the 72nd hole before losing a play-off to his American compatriot, Stewart Cink.

Fans could have been forgiven for thinking that was the last hurrah in a celebrated career, but Watson, now 61, once again demonstrated his star power as he sunk a hole-in-one at the 169-yard, par-three sixth at the Royal St George's course on Friday, the 15th ace of his career.

Watson had stood on the sixth tee at even for the round after five straight pars following his first-day 72.

His four-iron shot hit the centre of the green and with one hop disappeared into the cup to roars of approval from the gallery. That left him at even par for the tournament.

A delighted Watson threw both arms in the air, high-fived playing partner Henrik Stenson, shook hands with his other partner Tom Lewis, the English amateur who had claimed the headlines on the first day by taking a share of the lead, then took a bow toward the grandstand.

Watson was typically modest of his achievement.

"I didn't see it. You can't see it go in," he said. "I just saw it on the TV replay in there. It was a slam dunk.

"If it missed the flag it would've been 30 feet by, but it was lucky. They're all lucky when they go in, but that's what I was aiming at."

It was the second hole-in-one of the tournament following that of American Dustin Johnson at the 16th in Thursday's opening round, and the seventh in the past decade.

Watson is playing in his 34th Open having first competed at Carnoustie in 1975, and he has won the tournament five times.

But this is the first time in 115 rounds of Open golf that he has fired a hole-in-one.

Watson, however, is not the oldest player to record a hole-in-one in the Open; Gene Sarazen was 71 when he aced the famous Postage Stamp at Troon in 1973.

By a happy coincidence, Watson had seen Sarazen's shot prior to his round.

He explained: "It was ironic. This morning I was watching Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie on the show discussing the Open venues, and what do they show? They show Gene Sarazen on the Postage Stamp making his hole-in-one with a five iron.

"He hit a heck of a shot in there, beautiful swing right there, dropped it under, hit that five iron, a little draw in there, and maybe that's what inspired me today; I don't know.

"That's the second one I've had in a major championship. I had one at the US Open in 1980 at Baltusrol on the fourth hole in the first round. Maybe it was bookends."

But more was to come from the ever-popular Watson after his heroics at the sixth as he stood over a 20-foot putt for an eagle three at the next hole, but missed it left of the hole for a birdie to get to under par for the tournament.

Bogeys followed at 10 and 11, but Watson hung on to come in with a par 70 to leave himself at two over for the tournament, ensuring that he would be back both today and tomorrow. Although he is unlikely to challenge for the overall honours tomorrow as he did on the final day at Turnberry, the man from Kansas City, Missouri has once again shown the golfing world that age is no barrier to providing some magic out on the course.