x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Watson hoping to make experience count

Tom Watson refuses to be shaken off the scent of what, six weeks before his 60th birthday, would be a remarkable sixth British Open victory.

The veteran Tom Watson watches his shot from the fourth at Turnberry on Saturday, with Ailsa Craig Island in the background.
The veteran Tom Watson watches his shot from the fourth at Turnberry on Saturday, with Ailsa Craig Island in the background.

TURNBERRY // Tom Watson refuses to be shaken off the scent of what, six weeks before his 60th birthday, would be a remarkable sixth British Open Championship victory. The American legend traded shot for shot with a cluster of younger rivals for the coveted Claret Jug throughout an exciting third day at Turnberry before taking a one-shot lead on the 17th to go into the clubhouse on four under. He will be seeking to make his experience of winning over these Ayrshire links 32 long years ago count this afternoon. Watson, who began the day sharing the lead with his fellow American Steve Marino, 30 years his junior, remained in the ascendancy all afternoon until being joined at the top of the leaderboard on three under by Australia's Mathew Goggin, whose best finish in a major is a tie for 36th place in the 2007 US Open, and Englishman Ross Fisher.

But Watson rallied late in the day and birdies on the 16th and 17th gave him a one-shot clubhouse lead. Goggin, whose last tournament win was on the Nationwide tour, claims that he is not too stressed by his barren years. "There are situations where you feel like you could have done more or you've made a mistake or other guys just made good shots," he said. "You just chip away and knock on the door and hopefully you walk through. This would be a nice week to do that, obviously." Ross Fisher's performance tobe within a shot of the lead was remarkable considering the Englishman is within hours of becoming a father for the first time. He has pledged to rush to the bedside of his wife Jo if she goes into labour. That might be a hard promise to fulfil if the most prestigious honour in the game comes tantalisingly into view this afternoon.

Fisher, who finished a creditable fifth behind Lucas Glover in last month's US Open, got himself to four under par for the tournament with a birdie at the third but bogeys at the fifth and 12th slowed down his momentum. Another dropped shot at the 14th left him two strokes adrift, but two consecutive birdies, at the 16th and 17th put him level with Goggin on three under. England's Lee Westwood, who has for several years been considered a potential major winner, also briefly threatened to claim a share of the overnight lead after a birdie at the long 17th, only to bogeying the last and finish on two under. Nevertheless Westwood, who was within one putt of joiningTiger Woods and Rocco Mediate in a play-off for last year's US Open, will fancy his chances going into what should be a gripping final day.

A satisfied Westwood said: "I watched the golf on TV this morning and I knew how demanding it was. I was seeing guys nine over through 12 holes and so I knew it was playing tough. Fortunately I played a couple of weeks ago in a similar wind to this. I had a fair idea how the golf course was going to play if the wind turned round, and some of the guys may not have had that advantage." Marino, 29, looked as though the occasion might be too much for him in his first Open as he subsided from five under par to level in the first five holes where a double bogey six at the fifth hurt him badly. The young American showed tremendous character, however, to stick gamely to his task in what were unfamiliar conditions and the simplest of eagle putts on the long seventh reinvigorated him for the homeward stretch. A birdie two at the 11th put him back to within a stroke of the lead but a bad miss from three foot at the 12th, just after he had watched Watson miss twice the distance, proved an unexpected setback. He finished the day six shots off the lead. Mark Calcavecchia started the third day as the nearest challenger to the joint leaders. Like Watson, he was trying to turn back the Open clock, having triumphed at neighbouring Troon 20 years ago.

Calcavecchia, 49, remained firmly in contention after refusing to be unsettled by an early bogey five and another approaching the turn but his hopes were badly hit by a double-bogey at the 13th which was followed by another dropped shot at the next. That enabled his experienced compatriots Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink to overtake him. Those tough Ryder Cup campaigners will be serious threats this afternoon as they are bracketed together on one under par after respective rounds of 70 and 71.

wjohnson@thenational.ae