Jason Sobel's live blog

7/18/2009 - Golf

Editor's Note: The live blog will resume Sunday at 9 a.m. ET for the final round of the 138th British Open.

5 p.m. ET: Tom Watson is on the verge of history.

The 54-hole Open Championship leader is poised to earn his sixth career Claret Jug and become the oldest major champion ever at age 59.

Would it be the sports story of the year? Of the decade? Would it be bigger than Jack Nicklaus' win at Augusta in 1986? Bigger than any golf moment in history?

These questions will remain unanswered until the moment happens -- if the moment happens.

For now, let's break down what Watson needs to do -- and avoid -- in order to win Sunday, along with every other contender.

Tom Watson (4-under 206)
Needs to … continue rolling in putts from anywhere and everywhere.

"Every now and then it works, you know," he said. "And boy, is it working at the right time right now." Though Watson has climbed the leaderboard by hitting a healthy number of fairways and greens in regulation, he leads because he's been the best putter over the opening 54 holes. Known for having a balky stroke toward the end of his full-time PGA Tour career, especially on short ones, he seems to have eliminated these gaffes and has holed numerous lengthy par-savers.

Needs to avoid … overthinking the magnitude of the moment. Though he owns eight career majors already, No. 9 would clearly be the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame career, the one for which he will be remembered forever. Can the pressure get to a player who has already reached such lofty heights? Watson doesn't think so.

"I feel like my nerves are too well fried to feel them," he said. "I mean, come on. Let's just kind of go with what I've got."

Mathew Goggin (3-under 207)
Needs to … play like he did the last -- and only -- time he was paired with Watson at the Open. That was back in Round 3 of the 2003 edition.

"He was really good to me, and I had a really great experience," said Goggin, who shot 70 to Watson's 73 that day at Royal St. George's. "It was definitely a highlight of the Open for me."

Don't expect him to be starstruck by his final-round playing partner.

Needs to avoid … suffering a similar fate in the final round as previous times he's been in contention. Goggin hasn't won anywhere worldwide since a pair of Nationwide Tour victories 10 years ago. That doesn't mean he hasn't had his chances. Though he doesn't have an explanation for why he has yet to break through, he'll need to perform better than he has in high-pressure situations in the past.

Ross Fisher (3-under 207)
Needs to … play the final three holes exactly the same way he's played them during the first three rounds. So far, Fisher is 7-under on holes 16-18 with eight birdies and no bogeys.

"Those last three holes have done very nicely for me," he said. "Hopefully I can get some nice work out there tomorrow."

There's a very good chance that the result will come down to these three holes Sunday afternoon, and he holds an advantage there over all other competitors.

Needs to avoid … picking up the phone. Fisher has maintained throughout the week that if his wife, who is due with the couple's first child any day now, goes into labor, he'll leave Turnberry.

"Like I said all along, if Jo does go into labor, I'll be supporting her 100 percent," he said. "And I won't be here, I'll be with her, because it's something that I definitely don't want to miss. You know, it will be a shame, but I guess we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it."

Would he really leave? Well, if he never checks his phone, we'll never find out.

Lee Westwood (2-under 208)
Needs to … continue playing solid, steady golf. Through 54 holes, Westwood has carded 39 pars, and he's one of only two players (along with Fisher) who haven't posted an over-par round yet this week. He's made only five bogeys and one double, which shows his consistency throughout the week.

Needs to avoid … straying from his strategy. In a share of the lead on the final hole of Round 3, Westwood hit a poor iron shot into the thick heather and wound up chunking his next shot en route to a bogey.

"There's a lesson to be learned there because I strayed away from my game plan," he said. "I hit it straight at the flag. That was the main mistake." He won't need to aim for flagsticks very often Sunday, either. Another even-par round may be enough to get the job done.

Retief Goosen (2-under 208)
Needs to … lean on his past major championship experiences. With two U.S. Open titles already to his credit, Goosen could join the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington as three-time major winners in the Tiger era. He knows that patience is a key to clinching these wins.

"You keep telling yourself you've just got to hang in there and play for pars," he said. "But it's so hard. [Sunday] is going to be the same thing. You're going to have to be very patient and just wait for it."

Needs to avoid … the kind of final-round short-game failures that have plagued him lately. At last week's Scottish Open, Goosen underwent a five-hole stretch in which he four-putted once, three-putted three times and even chunked a chip.

Jim Furyk (1-under 209)
Needs to … rely on his ball-striking prowess. Furyk traditionally hits about 80 percent of fairways and is a terrific greens-in-regulation guy, both of which should serve him well under tough conditions.

"It's very narrow, it really is," he said. "The fairways are very narrow here, and the rough is quite thick off the fairways. So it's difficult to keep the ball in the fairway, and when you don't, there's a lot of times you don't have much of a shot. And I think it's a great golf course to start with and a great challenge, but the setup of it with the high rough just off the fairways is really punishing."

Keeping it in the short stuff will be of the utmost importance.

Needs to avoid … simply hanging back in the pack. Furyk has made a career of hanging around on the leaderboard and never falling too far off the pace, but at some point he'll need to mount a little charge. Remember: It's been 45 events and nearly two full calendar years since his last victory. For a guy who has won 13 times, that's a lot of near-misses.

Stewart Cink (1-under 209)
Needs to … rely on the confidence of having been in these situations in the past.

"Apart from Tom Watson, there's a lack of experience up on the leaderboard in front of me in majors," Cink said. "I've got experience in majors; I just haven't won any. I think [Sunday] I'm just going to come out here and try to attack the course a little bit, do the same thing I've been doing and just keep my composure. That's really all you can do."

Needs to avoid … a progressively poor putting performance. In each of the first three rounds, his number of one-putts has decreased while his number of two-putts has increased. Sure, Cink hit more greens in regulation Saturday (13, as opposed to 12 on Thursday and 10 on Friday), but he'll need to make a few more.

The rest of the field (even-par 210 and above)
Needs to … shoot a score under par. Unless conditions get really nasty, it's tough to imagine each of the top seven players will shoot above par in the final round. That means the likes of Bryce Molder and Thongchai Jaidee (each at even-par 210) and Richard S. Johnson, Boo Weekley, Angel Cabrera and Steve Marino (each at 1-over 211) will need to make some birdies and get into red figures.

Needs to avoid … getting off to a poor start. These guys won't need to make a bunch of birdies right off the bat, but they can't make bogeys, either, or else they'll find themselves even further from the leaders. A player can certainly come from 4 strokes behind or more, but it will take a very solid round with so many strong players ahead.

That will wrap up the Round 3 edition of the live blog. Join me tomorrow, when Tom Watson may very well make history here at Turnberry. Until then, hit 'em straight …

2:45 p.m. ET: Good e-mail from Brian in Worcester, Mass., correcting my assumption that Tom Watson was the only player to lead a major in four different decades:

I believe Sam Snead also did this. He led the 1937 U.S. Open, only to lose by 2 to Ralph Guldahl. He won four majors in the 1940s and three in the 1950s. And he was the 18- and 36-hole leader of the 1966 PGA. He also came within a shot of doing it again after 18 holes in 1974.

Good call. In that case, next year Watson can become the first player to lead a major in five different decades.

2:40 p.m. ET: E-mail from Angus in Parts Unknown:

When are you and the other announcers going to get off the "age" thing? It's almost ageism. Greg Norman led after 54 last year; Tom Watson leads after 54 this year. How about we just admire athleticism and forget the discussion about ages? People can perform at any age. It's getting tiring.

That's the story! Are we supposed to ignore it?

Sure, I can talk about how he's playing and what the win would mean -- and I've done that. But to ignore the fact that Watson is accomplishing this at the age of 59 would be doing a disservice to the importance of the story. Quite frankly, if he was 20 years younger and playing this well, it would just be a very good performance so far and a compelling major. At 59, though, it's on the verge of being the sports story of the year and one of the greatest stories in golf history.

2:31 p.m. ET: Are older players getting better? Or is it just a coincidence that so many have seen success in recent years?

Here is the list of the oldest players to own the 54-hole lead at a major since World War II:

• Tom Watson: 2009 Open Championship (59 years, 317 days)
• Greg Norman: 2008 Open Championship (53 years, 159 days)
• Julius Boros: 1973 U.S. Open (53 years, 105 days)
• Kenny Perry: 2009 Masters (48 years, 244 days)

It should be noted that Norman, Boros and Perry all fell short in trying to win their major the next day.

2:28 p.m. ET: Some other things to keep in mind ...

If Watson wins, he would qualify for next year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, site of his 1982 victory.

If Watson wins, he would become eligible for the British Open until 2019, when he was 69 years old.

If Watson wins, he may claim a spot on this year's Presidents Cup team and, possibly, next year's Ryder Cup team.

2:23 p.m. ET: Plan some serious couch time for tomorrow.

This has a chance to be one of the greatest days in golf history. At 59 years old, 11 years older than any previous major champion, Tom Watson will take the lead into the final round of the Open Championship.

As if that wasn't enough, he's playing Turnberry, a course on which he had one of the most famous final-round duels ever with Jack Nicklaus back in 1977. And he's seeking his sixth career Open title.

If Watson can pull it off, it may be the biggest sports story of the year.

2:21 p.m. ET: He's been making long putts all week, so why not one more?

Tom Watson lines up his birdie attempt on 18 ... and it's rolling toward the hole ... and it looks good ... and it ... just barely misses.

Wow. Great chance to take a 2-stroke advantage into the final round. Even so, that's a third-round 71 for Watson who will have sole possession of the 54-hole lead and will play alongside Mathew Goggin in the final pairing on Sunday.

2:19 p.m. ET: E-mail from Paul in Bemidji, Minn.:

Top four players on the leaderboard were born in different decades: Ross Fisher in the 1980s, Mathew Goggin in the 70s, Retief Goosen in the 60s ... and Tom Watson in the 1940s!

I believe -- though I haven't confirmed this -- that Watson is also the only player to lead a major in four separate decades.

2:17 p.m. ET: Tom Watson is safely on the green in two on No. 18.

He'll have a lengthy birdie attempt from the right side of the green, but just a 2-putt means he would be the sole 54-hole leader.

2:10 p.m. ET: We've seen Tom Watson make so many lengthy putts over the past two days.

He reached the par-5 17th in two and had about 20 feet for eagle ... but missed it.

That's a tap-in birdie for Old Tom and he moves to 4-under, once again in sole possession of the lead entering the final hole.

A par here on 18 -- he's made par and birdie the first two days -- and he'll be the 54-hole British Open leader.

2:01 p.m. ET: Searching for his third consecutive birdie, Ross Fisher gives it a great effort on No. 18 ... but just falls short.

Great finish for the guy nicknamed Fish, who shoots an even-par 70. He now shares the clubhouse lead with Mathew Goggin. If Watson doesn't get to 4-under, those two players will be in tomorrow's final pairing via the first-in, last-out rule.

1:59 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

mwmiller20@JasonSobel Jimenez: I don't always make bogeys, but when I do, I prefer doubles.

Ha! The most interesting man in the world preferred two doubles down the stretch en route to a 6-over 76.

1:56 p.m. ET: In yesterday's second round, Tom Watson made about a 75-foot putt for birdie on No. 16.

Today? Just a 45-footer. Ho-hum.

In all seriousness, that's a birdie for Old Tom to once again grab a share of the lead at 3-under.

With a par-5 coming up, there's a very good chance that Watson could own sole possession of the lead entering the final round.

1:51 p.m. ET: Shhh! Don't sleep on Ross Fisher.

Back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 move him into a share of the lead at 3-under.

And you know the first question he'll get after the round will be: If your wife goes into labor before the end of tomorrow's round, do you still plan on leaving Turnberry?

So far this week, Fisher has maintained that he will leave if wife Jo, who is due any day now, goes into labor with their first child. Can you actually imagine the scene, though, should Fisher be leading on the back-nine on Sunday ... and get the call? What if he stayed true to his word and walked off the course?

I don't see that happening. I just don't.

1:45 p.m. ET: Let's get to a few quick e-mails ...

From Justin in Malta:

So if Tom Watson has reset the age limit at which one can still compete for the Open Championship to 59, 16-year-old Matteo Manassero could in theory be in the race for the title from now through 2052, yes?

Exactly. I like his chances in '52.

From CJ in Saint Paul, Minn.:

I just noticed that Jim Furyk is sitting quietly in the clubhouse at 1-under. Doesn't he have to be considered one of the favorites tomorrow, especially if the guys in front of him keep coming back?

Absolutely. Furyk has this "lingering under the radar" thing down to a science. Seems like he does it at every major. This may be the one where he lingers his way to a win.

From Steve in Parts Unknown:

They'll be bloggin' non-stop about Goggin
If he plays tomorrow out of his noggin,
And doesn't get skittish
But wins the British
In his hometown, they'll be rockin'.

See, I knew you wouldn't let me down.

1:41 p.m. ET: Play with fire and you're bound to burned.

Tom Watson has been saving par all over the place, but couldn't do it at 15, instead making bogey to drop to 2-under, 1 shot behind Mathew Goggin.

If misery loves company, then at least Watson can take solace in the fact that Steve Marino just made double. He's now 1-over for the tournament and 6-over for the day.

Not very often you see a player go 6-over with an eagle and a birdie on the card.

1:35 p.m. ET: Mathew Goggin just hit the interview room. Here are some of the highlights ...

On his game: "It's just all coming together. I've worked a lot on my short game and putting, and that's the pointy end of the stick, really. And when that goes well, I've always hit the ball well enough to be around about. So when the other part of the game starts to match up, then you end up on this end of the leaderboard."

On running to mark his ball: "It's been a long time. I was going to tell you, I was knackered after I did it, too. Probably wasn't a very good idea. I hit an 8 iron from -- it was about 157 meters, I think. And seemed like plenty of club, it was riding the wind. I was really kind of staring it down thinking I hit a great shot. But when it landed where it did, I was a bit shocked, and it just looked like it wasn't going to stay there, so I just had to make sure, and then I was kind of messing around, too."

On why he has yet to win on the PGA Tour: "Just a lot of good players. 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. You just chip away and knock on the door and hopefully you walk through. This would be a nice week to do that, obviously. No, I'm not too stressed out about it. Obviously there are times when you find yourself pushing too hard and you feel like you get to a level where you should be winning and you put more pressure on yourself to win and then you start playing poorly. It's just all about managing expectations and just trying to be consistent."

Interestingly enough, Goggin was paired with Tom Watson in the third round of the 2003 Open. He was asked about that, too.

"That was probably the highlight of the British Open for me, playing with Tom Watson in the third round, because he's such a great player and such a great champion, especially at the British Open," he said. "And it was also shocking just how good he was. I mean, it was ridiculous. I played with him, and I'm thinking, you know, he's getting on in years and not playing so much and he's just smashing it around this golf course. And, you know, I was really impressed. He was really good to me and I had a really great experience. It was definitely a highlight of the Open for me."

They could be paired once again tomorrow -- with much higher stakes on the line.

1:27 p.m. ET: Steve Marino is searching for his tee shot on 15. Still can't find it.

Looks like he may have to hit another one, which would obviously drop him from his current spot at 2-under.

1:20 p.m. ET: E-mail from Brian in Louisville:

Looks like Mathew Goggin is using the Paddy Harrington approach for winning the British. Just sit back and hide and do nothing noteworthy and watch as everyone else seems to fall off or do nothing around you.

I've said it many times before: There is no more important virtue when it comes to succeeding in major championships than patience. Goggin has shown that so far, ripping off a ton of pars -- 37 in 54 holes so far, including 27 in the last 36 -- en route to the lead.

Remember: Through two rounds in each of the last two years -- and in some ways, even through three rounds -- we weren't talking much about Harrington, either.

1:15 p.m. ET: There's a stat on the PGA Tour that measures distance of putts made. In many cases, it's a more accurate indicator of how well a player is putting than putting average or total putts.

I don't believe this stat is being made available by the R&A this week, but I'd be absolutely shocked if Tom Watson wasn't the runaway leader in this category.

Watson just rolled in yet another 25-footer on No. 14. Like so many of his others the past few days, though, this was a par-saver, so he only stays at 3-under on the leaderboard rather than moving up.

Can't remember a time when I've seen one player make so many lengthy par-saving putts in one tourney.

1:13 p.m. ET: I think now is a good time to remind you of the only fitting announcer's call should Mathew Goggin win this tournament tomorrow ...

"They'll be bloggin' about Goggin!"

And yes, start your limericks now ...

1:08 p.m. ET: After a birdie on 17 to move into a share of the lead at 3-under, Lee Westwood has found some trouble.

Westy hit his second shot into the thick stuff short and left of the final green. From there, he chunked his third shot, barely advancing it. His fourth shot got to within 3 feet of the hole and he converted for bogey.

That's an even-par round of 70. He's in a share of third place right now, but if Tom Watson loses one more stroke down the stretch and Steve Marino or Ross Fisher don't gain one, Westwood may find himself in the final pairing alongside Mathew Goggin.

1:01 p.m. ET: Tom Watson had a reputation -- especially toward the end of his PGA Tour career -- as a guy who often missed his share of putts from close range.

Think Ernie Els right now, but 10-15 years earlier.

Well, Watson has looked anything but shaky this week, making plenty of par saves. That includes one on 13 just seconds ago from 8 feet away.

If he can keep making 'em from that distance, he'll stay up there on the board.

12:51 p.m. ET: Mathew Goggin walked up the final fairway to a boisterous round of applause and followed with a par.

That's an impressive 1-under 69 with three birdies and two bogeys. It leaves him as the clubhouse leader at 3-under-par going into the final round -- and he could very well be the 54-hole leader when it's all over today.

If Goggin can win this week -- or Steve Marino or Miguel Angel Jimenez or Ross Fisher or Bryce Molder or Thongchai Jaidee or Kenichi Kuboya -- he'd hardly be the first player to earn his initial PGA Tour victory at a major. Here is the list over the past 40 years:

• Angel Cabrera: 2007 U.S. Open
• Michael Campbell: 2005 U.S. Open
• Shaun Micheel: 2003 PGA
• Ben Curtis: 2003 British Open
• Retief Goosen: 2001 U.S. Open
• Paul Lawrie: 1999 British Open
• Ernie Els: 1994 U.S. Open
• John Daly: 1991 PGA
• Jeff Sluman: 1988 PGA
• Bernhard Langer: 1985 Masters
• Jerry Pate: 1976 U.S. Open
• Orville Moody: 1969 U.S. Open

12:45 p.m. ET: On the fringe in two on No. 12, Tom Watson fails to get up and down, missing an 8-footer for par.

That's a bogey and it drops him to 3-under.

Just seconds later, Steve Marino follows by missing a 6-foot par attempt of his own to fall to 2-under.

And now there are two men in a share of the lead -- Tom Watson and for the first time all week ... Mathew Goggin.

I'd have to check the record books, but I believe this is the first time Goggin has ever held the lead at a major during a weekend round. To be honest, I'm not sure he's even led a PGA Tour event on more than a few occasions.

Goggin is still searching for his first career PGA Tour win. Last year, he was T-2 at the Memorial, T-3 at the Turning Stone Resort Championship, solo third at the Frys.com Open, T-4 at The Barclays and T-7 at the Honda Classic.

12:42 p.m. ET: Good note from ESPN stats guru David Bearman ...

With England's Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher on Tom Watson's heels, it's good to note that Nick Faldo and Tony Jacklin are the only Englishmen to win the Open Championship over the last 55 years and Jacklin's was 40 years ago.

Here's the complete list over that time:

• 1992: Nick Faldo (Muirfield)
• 1990: Nick Faldo (St. Andrews)
• 1987: Nick Faldo (Muirfield)
• 1969: Tony Jacklin (Lytham & St. Anne's)

12:39 p.m. ET: We started the day with Tom Watson and Steve Marino on top of the leaderboard and nearly three hours after they teed off in the final pairing, their names are 1-2 once again ... although Watson holds a 1-stroke advantage now.

That's because Ross Fisher just bogeyed the 12th hole, leaving Marino as the sole man in second place at 3-under.

12:30 p.m. ET: I don't know what Mathew Goggin's 40 time is, but the dude was just on the move.

After hitting a wedge into the 17th green, the Aussie thought it might roll back off the front, so he sprinted -- OK, jogged -- up the fairway and marked his ball.

And here you thought all those hours in the gym were unnecessary for professional golfers.

12:26 p.m. ET: After Tom Watson at 4-under and Ross Fisher at 3-under, there's a huge logjam one stroke further back.

Mathew Goggin, Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Retief Goosen, Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Marino make up the six-some at 2-under.

Whoa. Make it a five-some.

Marino rolls in his birdie attempt and he moves back to 3-under. Great comeback after some tough holes at the start.

It's also eerily reminiscent of Tom Watson's round yesterday. Terrible start. Great bounce-back.

12:19 p.m. ET: Ross Fisher has been burning edges all day.

He's only converted one birdie putt -- back on the third hole -- but Fisher has come thisclose a handful of other times.

He just barely missed another on the 11th. Instead, he settles for par and remains in solo second, one behind Tom Watson.

12:17 p.m. ET: Tom Watson scares the hole with his birdie attempt on No. 10, but it stays out by a mere inches.

Pars are his friend right now, though, and Old Tom taps in for par to remain in the lead all by himself.

12:13 p.m. ET: E-mail from Drew in Dallas:

Any word on whether Jack Nicklaus is going to hop a flight to watch Old TW if he's still in the lead after 54?

Haven't heard anything, but as I mentioned earlier in the week, wouldn't it be a cool gesture if he did? Sort of like Pete Sampras going to the Wimbledon final to watch Roger Federer. I know Watson won't be breaking any of Jack's records, but in celebration of their Duel in the Sun back in 1977, it would be pretty exciting to see him here.

12:08 p.m. ET: Nice to have a cushion, isn't it?

Tom Watson bogeys the ninth hole -- so much for being "picture perfect" there, huh? -- but remains one stroke ahead of Ross Fisher at 4-under .

I'm seriously starting to wonder whether anyone will finish their round at better than 2-under when it's all said and done today. That doesn't mean I think Watson will falter, necessarily; it's just that conditions are tough and a 2-over 37 on the back nine really isn't all that terrible anyway.

11:58 a.m. ET: E-mail from Coach in Parts Unknown:

Do you think that if Tom Watson is in contention coming down the back nine that he will fare better than Greg Norman last year? He has the experience of winning and closing out better than what Norman must have had in his psyche after all of his notable collapses and almost wins through the year?

Interesting theory. Watson has always been known as a closer, thanks to his 39 career PGA Tour victories and 12 on the Champions Tour. Of course, that also includes five British Open wins, too.

That said, it's been 11 years since his last PGA Tour win. There's no telling how he'll deal with being in the lead -- or contention -- on Sunday afternoon.

11:54 a.m. ET: If Tom Watson wins this tournament -- and maybe even if he doesn't -- some of the photographers who just took shots of him teeing off No. 9 with the lighthouse in the background are going to get big money for their prints.

I know plenty of golf fans in the U.S. -- and Scotland, too -- who would love to show that one off in the basement.

11:44 a.m. ET: Honestly, I don't think I've typed Mathew Goggin's name more than once or twice in the past two days.

He's a very good ball-striker and a guy who I often like as a sleeper pick at these things. When I walked past him near the practice green on Tuesday afternoon just after filing my pre-tournament rankings, I began to think I should have included him somewhere.

Well, hindsight is 20-20 and now Goggin is climbing the leaderboard. At even-par today through 12 holes -- two birdies, eight pars, two bogeys -- he currently stands at 2-under, in a share of fourth place, 3 shots off the lead.

11:33 a.m. ET: What a strange round for Steve Marino.

He started par-bogey-bogey-bogey-double-par, but nearly just holed out for double-eagle on the par-5 seventh. Instead, he'll take an eagle, which gets him back to 2-under in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Tom Watson also takes advantage of the par-5, making birdie to extend his lead to 2.

11:23 a.m. ET: Bryce Molder fired a 3-under 67 today and Thongchai Jaidee shot a 1-under 69. Each currently stands at even-par through 54 holes.

Leads to this e-mail from Joe in Parts Unknown:

What are the chances of Thongchai Jaidee winning his first major? I know he's a super longshot, but if the wind blows, Thongchai could end up a 54-hole leader tomorrow.

And this tweet ...

scott_peterson4@JasonSobel Where is Bryce Molder going to finish the day? 6th?

Each player is in a share of 10th place right now, but the way things are going, expect 'em to continue moving up the leaderboard throughout the afternoon.

I'd say T-6 is a pretty good bet for day's end; it could even be better than that. And expect them each to be somewhere around 2-4 strokes within the lead entering the final round, very much within striking distance.

11:20 a.m. ET: Kenichi Kuboya opened with seven straight pars in today's round, but that streak was just broken.

Kuboya can't convert a lengthy par attempt and takes his first bogey of the day, dropping to 2-under.

Seems like the entire field is backing up right now. Conditions are getting tough out here.

11:14 a.m. ET: Tom Watson has been mercurial getting up and down from greenside bunkers throughout the week.

But not this time.

Old Tom chips to about 10 feet, but can't convert the par effort and drops into a share of the lead with Retief Goosen ... for about 30 seconds.

That's because the Goose just took an unplayable on the par-5 seventh hole and made double-bogey.

And once again, Watson is atop the board by himself, trailed by Ross Fisher, Mark Calcavecchia and Kenichi Kuboya by a stroke.

11:08 a.m. ET: At last month's U.S. Open, there was plenty of talk about underdogs contending for the title, as 519th-ranked Ricky Barnes and 882nd-ranked David Duval were both on the leaderboard.

Compared with Tom Watson, those guys were prohibitive favorites.

Watson is currently ranked No. 1,374 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Actually, that number puts him in a tie with ... you and me.

Old Tom has 0.00 average points over the past two-year period. There are 1,373 players in the world with at least 0.01. The rest of us are tied for 1,374th.

11:04 a.m. ET: At nearby Prestwick, site of the first Open Championship in 1860, there is a train that still runs parallel to the opening hole.

More than a few observers over the years have remarked that it may in fact be the bogey train -- and if so, they were already on board.

After a par on No. 1, Steve Marino was riding that train, making bogey on each of his next three holes. He stopped that streak on No. 5, but only because the train pulled into Double-Bogeyville.

He should have jumped off instead.

Marino is now 5-over for the day through five holes after playing his first 36 of the week in 5-under. Looks like the pressure of playing in a final pairing of a major with a legend like Tom Watson is too much for him to handle right now.

11:02 a.m. ET: With a tough lie in the greenside bunker on No. 5, Tom Watson knocks one 20 feet past the hole ... and makes the come-backer for par.

Old Tom made about a mile's worth of putts in yesterday's round. Seems like he's still got the magic flatstick working today.

10:55 a.m. ET: Shhh ... don't sleep on Ross Fisher.

Especially when he's trying to finish out for par.

In contention during Monday's final round of last month's U.S. Open, Ross Fisher badly missed a par putt on the 15th hole and wound up finishing in solo fifth place.

He just found more putting woes on No. 5, missing a 2-footer for par. That bogey drops him to 3-under.

10:49 a.m. ET: My pre-tournament pick to win was Sergio Garcia ... and I maintained that he was still my guy entering the final 36 holes just 4 strokes behind the leaders.

Well, consider that the ultimate Blog Jinx, as El Nino posted six pars and three bogeys to make the turn in 3-over 38, now 7 shots behind leader Tom Watson in a share of 28th place.

Predictably, it's been Garcia's putting that has unraveled.

In each of the first two rounds, he had six one-putts and 12 two-putts and no three-putts. So far today, he's had one one-putt, seven two-putts and his first three-putt of the week.

10:43 a.m. ET: He makes tricky wedge shots look like simple 2-foot putts.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is ... the most interesting man in the world.

The Mechanic chips in on No. 5, then gives his best Michael Jordan shoulder-shrug. That's a birdie and he joins the group at 3-under.

10:39 a.m. ET: After being forced to chip out of a fairway bunker, Tom Watson gets up and down for par on No. 3.

Steve Marino, on the other hand, may wish he could get a mulligan on the last 39 minutes of his life. He posts a second straight bogey and drops to 3-under.

In his first 36 holes, Marino made five bogeys. In three holes Saturday, he's made two.

10:35 a.m. ET: My buddy Bob Smiley snuck his camera onto the grounds here at Turnberry and took this photo of Tom Watson arriving at the clubhouse this morning.

Ha ... a DeLorean ... like in "Back to the Future" ... get it?

And yes, he used the exact same Photoshop program in regard to Greg Norman a year ago.

10:29 a.m. ET: Tom Watson nearly rolls in a lengthy birdie putt on No. 2. He settles for par instead -- and it's enough to move him into sole possession of the lead.

That's because Steve Marino can't get up and down from the tall stuff on the right side and takes bogey.

Marino falls to 4-under, in a share of second with Retief Goosen and Ross Fisher, who just punctuated a birdie putt with a big fist pump.

10:21 a.m. ET: When does a solid dose of beer and Aleve become too much? Mark Calcavecchia is hoping that won't happen yet.

The 1989 champ just bogeyed the second hole to drop to 3-under. Calc could make some history this week.

From ESPN stats guru David Bearman ...

Here is the longest span between same major wins since World War II:

• Raymond Floyd: 13 years (1969 and 1982 PGA Championship)
• Gary Player: 13 years (1961 and 1974 Masters)

And here is the longest span between British Open wins since World War II:

• Henry Cotton: 11 years (1937 and 1948)
• Gary Player: 9 years (1959 and 1968)

If Calc wins this week, his 20-year span between major victories would smash both records.

10:18 a.m. ET: Looking at the scoreboard, I wonder if I need to amend that last post. Starting to appear that even-par 70 would be a great score at this course today.

With each of the 74 players in the field having completed at least one hole, there are currently only four men under par.

They are: Retief Goosen (1-under through two holes); Bryce Molder (3-under 67); Richard S. Johnson (1-under 69) and Thomas Aiken (1-under 69).

10:15 a.m. ET: A pair of pars for Tom Watson and Steve Marino on the opening hole.

I wonder if either co-leader has a target score in mind for the day. Based on the conditions, I'm guessing it could be "anything under par" -- and such a score would likely give either player the 54-hole lead, as well.

That said, I can't imagine they would be too unhappy with 17 more pars, taking their chances that 5-under will still be a pretty solid score entering the final round Sunday.

10:08 a.m. ET: E-mail from Larry in Raleigh, N.C.:

OK, I love golf and I love hockey, but seriously: If the Stanley Cup and the Claret Jug both show up in a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, or anywhere that desolate, people will know the Stanley Cup more than they will the Claret Jug. So I would kindly ask that the announcers stop saying it's the greatest trophy in the world. Your thoughts?

I have three thoughts ...

1. The world is much bigger than the U.S. Nobody in Scotland or Argentina or Japan would care too much about seeing the Stanley Cup.

2. The World Cup and the Wimbledon Trophy (and probably a few others that I'm missing right now) are probably right up there, too.

3. Don't go to Des Moines, Larry. I think the people of that "desolate" city, as you called it, are probably very unhappy with you right now.

10:03 a.m. ET: A pair of multiple major champs are headed in opposite directions.

Retief Goosen just holed a birdie putt on No. 2 to get to within a stroke of the lead.

One of my favorite stats of the week, courtesy of a Twitter follower: In 1994, Ernie Els won the U.S. Open; seven years later, Goosen won. In 1997, Els again won the U.S. Open; seven years later, Goosen won again, too. In 2002, Els won the British Open. Well, the seven-year anniversary is this week and Ernie's buddy Retief is very much in the mix.

Meanwhile, it's been a rough start for Vijay Singh, who went bogey-bogey on the opening two holes to drop to 1-under-par.

10 a.m. ET: Now on the tee ... Tom Watson!

As he's done all week, Old Tom slaps one right down the first fairway.

Same goes for Steve Marino, who has eschewed the wool beanie cap in favor of a more conventional baseball-style hat today.

9:55 a.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

JasonAllison@jasonsobel Miguel Angel Jimenez once won the Spanish Open... while he was in France. He is....

... the most interesting man in the world!

The Mechanic makes a par on his first hole. After a 64-73 start, he's right in the thick of things at 3-under-par.

9:50 a.m. ET: As discussed throughout this week, even though it's been stretched out 257 yards on the scorecard from the last time it hosted the Open back in 1994, like most links tracks, Turnberry is more of a ball-striker's course than a bomber's paradise.

Interesting, then, that big basher John Daly is creeping his way up the leaderboard, isn't it?

Of course, he's hardly employing that strategy this week.

For the week, Daly is averaging 280.2 yards per drive, which is well behind the field average of 288.9. It's not helping him hit many more fairways, though, as he's currently 17-for-34, right at 50 percent.

With pars on each of his last five holes, JD is currently in a share of 15th place at even-par.

9:38 a.m. ET: First e-mail of the day from Aaron in Kansas City:

As a Kansas City sports fan, life is -- needless to say -- rough. Do you think people really understand the magnitude of Tom Watson leading the Open right now? And what do you think are his realistic chances of being within 2 (or better) going into the back nine tomorrow?

It's tough not to understand the magnitude of his run up the leaderboard, with all the numbers being thrown around. He's 59, first won this event in 1975 and has made 32 career Open starts. I mean, Jack Nicklaus' victory at the 1986 Masters is considered legendary -- and for good reason -- but at the time, he was 13 years younger!

If anything is taking some of the luster off Watson's performance, it's the fact that Greg Norman did the very same thing a year ago at age 53. Speaking of the Shark, to answer your second question, I think Watson will ultimately find a similar fate as that of Norman a year ago. I think he'll be right there in the mix coming to the back nine tomorrow, but I don't believe he'll pull it off. Just my opinion ...

One more e-mail, from Jake in Arizona going to California:

I'm on the road from Phoenix to Los Angeles and I just passed a "Watson Road" in the middle of nowhere. I had my cruise set to 59 mph. It's an omen. Watson wins. Don't worry, my wife is driving now. Dude, laws.

Dude, karma.

And if you think Watson Road is an omen, how about the fact that Watson is residing this week at the Turnberry Hotel ... in the Tom Watson Suite. And he doesn't even get a discounted rate!

"I'm paying the full bore. Full bore, yes, I am," Watson said yesterday. "You see, what happens is they split the suite up and Vijay [Singh] has the big part of the suite, and I've just got a room. He pays the big money. He can afford it."

9:29 a.m. ET: I was asked the following question during several radio interviews last night: "What will the British Open be like without Tiger Woods there on the weekend?"

My response: "Uh, sorta like last year."

Just in case you were wondering, no, Woods isn't working on his putting at the practice facility or following some of his favorite players in the gallery. I did, however, see U.S. Open champ Lucas Glover -- who also missed the cut -- in the pro shop about an hour ago.

9:19 a.m. ET: There are scores to be had out here today and Bryce Molder's card is Exhibit A.

Even though he started out 2-over through seven holes, Molder posted five birdies in his last 11 to shoot a 3-under 67 and end the day at even-par for the tourney.

The former four-time All-America selection from Georgia Tech has been playing the best golf of his career over the past month-and-a-half. In his last five starts, he's finished T-23, T-2, T-19, 4 and T-30, all of which helped him qualify for this event through a special six-week money list.

9:13 a.m. ET: That last post was one of those "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" type of things.

This post is a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing.

Wait, scratch that. More like three degrees.

From ESPN researcher Jason McCallum:

Tom Watson played in the British Open with Peter Jacobsen.
Peter Jacobsen was in "Tin Cup" with Kevin Costner.
Kevin Costner was in "JFK" with Kevin Bacon.

Best I could do was connect Watson to Bob Barker through Lee Trevino in "Happy Gilmore", but that's not too exciting.

9:08 a.m. ET: Speaking of experience, my buddy John Anderson of "SportsCenter" fame sent me this note last night, fully researched all on his own ...

Old Tom Morris played in the first British Open in 1860. He won the tournament four times.
Harry Vardon won the Open in 1896 (the first of his six titles), the last year Old Tom played.
Henry Cotton -- a three-time champ -- played in the last three Opens that Vardon played. His final appearance was in 1977.

Tom Watson earned one of his five Open titles in 1977 and now leads after 36 holes.
That's four golfers ... 18 majors ... all 149 years and 138 Opens covered.

9 a.m. ET: If we've learned anything over the first 36 holes here at Turnberry, it's that experience matters.

Tiger Woods had never seen this course before last Saturday. He missed the cut. Tom Watson won here in 1977 and has played in 32 career Open Championships. He's in the lead.

And it's not only Old Tom who is proving the theory. At 49, Mark Calcavecchia would also be the oldest major winner in history; Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez are other 40-somethings up there on the leaderboard. So, it's obvious that experience counts at this event.

Or ... maybe not.

How else to explain the fact that Watson's playing partner in today's final twosome is Steve Marino, a guy who has played two total career rounds on a links course -- and those were each of the last two days, as he shot 67-68 to grab a share of the lead? As I said in my video blog, maybe there really is no rhyme or reason or explanation for how and why certain players get into contention.

Round 3 is already under way, with similar conditions to Friday, as the wind is coming through here pretty good. No rain yet, but one weather report this morning stated that it could be raining on one part of the course at times and not another. Should make for an interesting watch.

Though the leaders are still an hour from teeing off, there is some leaderboard movement already. Thongchai Jaidee went out in 32, though he has since bogeyed No. 10, and none other than John Daly chipped in for birdie at the third hole to get into red figures.

I'll be here with the live blog until the final putt drops later this afternoon. As always, you can reach me at britishopenblog@gmail.com or on Twitter at JasonSobel. You may now swing away ...