Double shocker: Watson leads, Woods likely cut
AP National Writer
TURNBERRY, Scotland – Tom Watson leading the British Open heading to the weekend?
Tiger Woods gassing up the plane and heading for home?
Treacherous Turnberry delivered a pair of shockers Friday.
The 59-year-old Watson rolled in two impossibly long putts, danced a Scottish jig on the 18th green and walked off tied with unheralded American Steve Marino for the 36-hole lead at the British Open, where the course struck back with a fury thanks to a stiff breeze whipping off the Firth of Clyde.
Woods probably won’t be around to see how it all turns out. He took two double bogeys on the back side, limped off with a 4-over 74 and appeared likely to miss the cut in a major for only the second time in his professional career.
“It was just problem after problem,” said Woods, who came into golf’s oldest championship as an overwhelming favorite after winning three times since his return from knee surgery. “I kept compounding my problems out there.”
Major title No. 15 will have to wait, it seems.
“I hit some bad tee shots, a couple of bad iron shots, didn’t get it up and down,” Woods said. “I kept making mistake after mistake.”
Watson, trying to shatter the record for the oldest major winner, had all his bad shots at the start. The five-time Open champion bogeyed five out of six holes on the front – four of them in a row – but he remarkably played the final 10 holes at 4 under.
He signed for a 70 that might have been more impressive than his bogey-free 65 in the opening round.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” Watson said.
Woods had missed only one cut in a major since turning pro, and that was at the 2006 U.S. Open shortly after the death of his beloved father, Earl. He tried to rally, making birdies on two of the last three holes, but that was likely to leave him one stroke shy of the cut line.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen,” Woods said. “No doubt I’m frustrated. I was playing well the first seven holes, right there in the championship. I felt like if I was under par for the tournament, I would be in the top 10. I didn’t do that. I went the other way.”
The top 70, plus ties, make it to the final two rounds. When Woods walked off the course, he was tied for 77th at 5-over 145.
The British Open doesn’t have a 10-shot rule, which would allow anyone within 10 strokes of the lead to make the cut. Woods was 10 behind co-leaders Marino and Watson.
Marino shot 68 in treacherous conditions and will go out in the final group Saturday with Watson. Another old-timer, 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia, will start one stroke back.
“It’s as if the spirits are on my side,” said Watson, who rolled in a 75-foot birdie at the 16th and a 45-footer at the final hole. “I hope the spirits stay on my side.”
Since the ’06 miss at Winged Foot, Woods had made the cut in 43 consecutive tournaments worldwide. He opened with a disappointing 71 in much easier conditions Thursday, but was still in decent shape when he made the turn.
Then, he fell apart.
Woods’ tee shot at No. 10 sailed wildly into the tall grass far right of the fairway – a familiar problem both days – and it was clear he was in trouble when he hit a provisional. Even with dozens of fans helping him look, he could only find someone else’s lost ball – who knows how long that’s been there? – took a one-stroke penalty and wound up with a double-bogey 6.
He made bogey at the 12th after driving into a fairway bunker, then had another double at 13. He was only 159 yards away in the first cut of rough after his tee shot, then needed five more strokes to get down. A ragged approach missed the green, a sloppy chip failed to stay on, and a missed putt from about 5 feet sent him tumbling into an even deeper hole.
“I just made mistakes,” Woods said. “And obviously you can’t make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut, but also try and win a championship. You have to play clean rounds of golf, and I didn’t. I made my share of mistakes out there today and didn’t play a very clean card.”
Watson began to rally with two birdies around the turn, but he closed with a real flourish. The long putt at No. 16 plopped right in the center of the cup, prompting Watson to pump both fists. The one from the edge of the 18th green dropped, too, and Watson kicked his right leg with glee, hardly looking like a guy who had his left hip replaced last October.
He would easily be the oldest major champion in golf history; Julius Boros was 48 when he set the record at the 1968 PGA Championship.
But remember, the Open teased us with a similar scenario a year ago – Greg Norman, then 53, led after 54 holes but faded on the final day.
Maybe Calcavecchia will take it down. With his wife on the bag and just one year away from being eligible for the senior tour, he got off to a 67-69 start two decades after his lone major title, right up the road at Troon.
“I’m real happy with the way things have gone,” he said. “I’m getting some good bounces, and I’m getting lucky on occasion, which always helps.”
With props to his father for sending along his passport, Marino looked right at home in his first Open appearance.
“I didn’t have a passport,” said Marino, who got in as an alternate. “I had to fly my dad down to Florida so he could get my passport and FedEx it to me. … I wasn’t even expecting to play in this tournament.”
His father made the dash from his home in Virginia, sent along the passport to his son playing in the John Deere Classic and flew back – all in the same day. When Shingo Katayama withdrew from the Open last weekend because of an injury, Marino received the spot.
Though he had never played on a true links course, Marino felt his game was suited to a style of golf that requires imagination and low ball flight.
“I would consider myself a feel player,” he said. “I kind of see shots before I hit them. I don’t really hit the same shot every time. Over here, you kind of have to be that way a little bit and hit some low shots and some high shots and bounce them in there and use the slopes.”
For most, this was a day for surviving.
First-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez struggled to a 73. The ponytailed, cigar-smoking Spaniard got off to a grisly start but held it together and joined the pack at 137.
“I’m pleased the way I finished, not very pleased with the way I started,” Jimenez said. “You need to put it on the fairways, and I started missing the fairways for a little bit.”
Japan’s Kenichi Kuboya had the lead for a while, but lost it – along with his ball – when an errant tee shot at No. 13 led to double bogey. A 72 kept him in contention among at 137, along with England’s Ross Fisher (68), South Africa’s Retief Goosen (70) and Fijian Vijay Singh (70).
Sergio Garcia was in the hunt at 140. John Daly, who won at St. Andrews in 1995, made it to an Open weekend for the first time in four years with a 140 after shooting 72.
“It was brutal out there,” moaned Daly, who might have said the same about his psychedelic green pants. “The course – whether it is calm or blowing – your are always 5 feet or 5 inches from a disaster.”
Just ask Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open champion. He was challenging for the lead with an opening 65, but soared to an 80 on Friday.
“I just hit it bad,” he said. “I got lucky yesterday with the weather. That helped me keep it in play. Today was different.”
To say the least.