He embraced his son again, waved to his adoring fans and then bowed in appreciation. I said it a month ago, it’s a little bit like death. There are lots of wonderful memories we’ve shared here. Jones had won the 1927 Open and the 1930 British Amateur, the first leg of his unprecedented and unrepeated Grand Slam. Neither did a badly missed chip at the final hole. I’m not putting myself in the same shoes as Bobby Jones but walking up that 18th fairway, as the legend goes, he was engulfed by thousands of people who had come out and heard that he was on the golf course.
The five-times champion is forever famed for his Duel in the Sun triumph over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry. He conceded beforehand that he could no longer compete with players young enough to be his grandchildren, and he will likely finish last in the 156-player field when the second round is completed Saturday morning.
Watson finished on +12 and missed the cut by a mile.
As the clouds thickened and the skies darkened, it looked as though he would have to return for one more day to finish his round.
“They were getting ready to blow the horn”, Els said.
Watson was so overcome by emotion, and understandably so, that he bogeyed his last five holes, including the easy 18th after his stop on the bridge, and shot a 42 on the back nine for an 80.
Watson also remembered the people who had helped him during his winning years, the late Alfie Fyles, who carried the bag and had an input for all five of his Open victories, and the late Bruce Edwards, who did the same for him in the US tournaments, where he picked up his other three majors, two Masters and a United States Open. Typically, Watson wanted his partners to put their own ambitions first. And then preceded his knock his next ball into the burn in front of the first green.
He posed on the bridge with Els and Snedeker, plus all their caddies.
He asked Michael to stick the flag back in the hole so he could line up his putt from off the green. “I can’t even see it”. R & A officials and their guests spilled out of the clubhouse, as did players such as Tom Lehman, Matt Kuchar and Graeme McDowell. “There’s no reason to be sad”.
This is not how it was meant to end for Tom Watson.
“I told my son, I said, “Michael, there should be no tears, this should be all joy”, said Watson”.
“Now it is time to get on with the real golf tournament”, he added.
Tears were welling in his eyes as he spoke and he occasionally had to pause to compose himself, while admitting he was “babbling on”. We watched Snedeker incur the greatest damage for this decision to play on by posting a double bogey at the Road Hole.
When he sat down to talk, he told a story about Bobby Jones walking that same 18th fairway that he had just walked.
“I looked at the gods – the St. Andrews golfing gods at No. 17”. “When you shoot 81, it’s time to say goodbye”.