Commentary

Jason Sobel's live blog

Originally Published: July 18, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

6 p.m. ET: Think back to April. Specifically, the Masters. Even more specifically, the final round. What sticks out as most memorable? If you said champion Angel Cabrera's earning the green jacket, consider yourself in the minority. Instead, it was the story of runner-up Kenny Perry, who faltered down the stretch in his bid to become the oldest major champion ever, that left the most lasting impression.

Now try last month's U.S. Open. Recall, if you will, the images that first flash through your mind when the subject of the final round arises. Is the foremost thought that of Lucas Glover raising the silver trophy aloft? Maybe not. After all, it was the close calls of Phil Mickelson and David Duval that grabbed most fans' imaginations, titillating to the point that the eventual winner was largely considered disappointing.

Neither of those results, however, ranks nearly as high on the bummer meter as that of the Open Championship.

With an opening-round 65 that elevated him to the second spot on the leaderboard, 59-year-old Tom Watson -- he of the five career British Open titles -- was a nice story Thursday, a blast from the past on a Turnberry course that was the site of so much of his previous success.

When he finished the second round, Watson held a share of the lead, and quick, two-word questions became the only form of communication necessary to elocute the magnitude of the moment: What if? How so? Could he? Watson allowed our minds to wander, trying to calculate whether this storybook conclusion could come to fruition.

After Round 3, it was full-bore Tom-mania. The 54-hole leader was on the verge of rewriting the record books, becoming the oldest major champion by 11 years and earning his sixth Claret Jug to tie Harry Vardon for the most all-time.

Forget the numbers, though. Watson had an opportunity to surpass the greatest moments in golf history, from Ben Hogan's comeback from a near-fatal accident at the 1950 U.S. Open to 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus' back-nine 30 at the 1986 Masters to Tiger Woods' injury-riddled playoff victory at last year's U.S. Open. This could have, would have ranked among the most spectacular instances in all of sports -- right up there with the Miracle On Ice in a country that serves nothing on the rocks.

Instead, Old Tom fell agonizingly short of history. He hung in there, battled until the very end, kept hope alive that history could actually happen. He held a single-stroke advantage on the 72nd hole, needing a par to claim the title. Instead, Watson missed an 8-foot putt, then carried over his disappointment into a four-hole playoff with Stewart Cink, losing by a half-dozen shots in overtime.

Sort of goes with the theme of the entire season, doesn't it?

Though Watson's close call was certainly the most memorable storyline of Open week, it was hardly the only lasting image from Turnberry.

We'll remember an opening round that more closely resembled Scottsdale than Scotland, yielding low scores while Mother Nature apparently took a mulligan. It wasn't until Friday that the British Open really started looking like a British Open. The weather eventually kicked into overdrive, with blustery winds and brief periods of heavy rain.

We'll remember Tiger Woods' missing the cut in a major for only the second time in his professional career. And you thought the 14-time major champion's T-6 finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open were disappointing? Woods' rounds of 71-74 were marked by play that was extraordinary only in how ordinary it really was.

We'll remember the likes of Steve Marino and Mark Calcavecchia and Miguel Angel Jimenez climbing the leaderboard, only to turn invisible by Sunday afternoon.

We'll remember Matteo Manassero, the 16-year-old wunderkind who held his own among the world's best. And Chris Wood, last year's low amateur, who topped that performance with a T-3 result this time around.

We'll remember Lee Westwood, who came within a putt of making last year's U.S. Open playoff a three-man contest. Inevitably, he could have achieved the same result at Turnberry, but carded a bogey on the final hole to ensure a similar fate.

And, yes, we'll remember Stewart Cink. Previously famous for a failure much like that of Westwood back at Southern Hills in 2001, he was on the list of best players in the world without a major victory, though certainly not atop such a ranking. For much of the week, Cink flew under the radar, simply going about his business in relative anonymity. In the end, though, he prevailed in the same way that Padraig Harrington earned the Claret Jug in each of the past two years. Patience and perseverance paid off, as his 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole became his new career-defining moment.

Consider it a well-deserved win for a popular player, the third time this year that a solid, unassuming pro not only bested the field, but thwarted the big story, too.

We'll remember Cink's triumph, of course, but much like at the Masters and U.S. Open, we'll remember it more for what could have been.


4 p.m. ET: I'm going to write one final lengthier blog post to finish this off, but thanks for all of the questions, comments, tweets and, yes, theme songs throughout the week.

(What? You thought I was gonna miss out on a chance to mention it one last time?)

The next live blog will come from Hazeltine for next month's PGA Championship. I'll update this with one more post soon, so click back in a little while. Until next time, hit 'em straight ...


3:50 p.m. ET: What is the lasting memory of this week's Open Championship? SportsNation voters have made their opinions known -- and it should hardly come as a surprise that the champion comes in a distant third.

Here are the current results, with nearly 2,000 votes tallied so far:

• Tom Watson finishing second in playoff: 55 percent
• Tiger Woods missing the cut: 38 percent
• Stewart Cink winning his first career major: 7 percent


3:40 p.m. ET: Lost amid the fact that Tom Watson lost the Open is the fact that -- had the 59-year-old not been in contention -- Stewart Cink would be a very popular winner.

Cink is one of the PGA Tour's nice guys, a congenial sort and one with the respect of his peers who voted him onto their policy board.

Here is some of what he had to say in the interview room after the victory:

On winning the Open: "I'm just filled with pride and honor, and I'm just -- I don't know, there's too many words to use to describe the way I feel to even start the list. Having outlasted this field on this golf course with the way the weather tried to beat us down the last three days, it's something that I'll never forget. It's great to be the one left."

On facing Watson in the playoff: "I would never have dreamed that I would go head-to-head against Tom Watson in a playoff for a major championship. That would be beyond even my mind's imagination capabilities. But after playing with him in the practice round with him this year at the Masters, I would have told you that I don't really ever want to go up against him head-to-head because of the way he hits it. He's so solid, and he hits the right shot. He just plays under control. The same Tom Watson that won this tournament in, what was it, '77, the same guy showed up here this week. And he just about did it. He beat everybody but one guy. And it was really special. But no, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be playing against Tom Watson."

On not having the crowd behind him in the playoff: "It's not the first time I've been in that situation. I've played plenty of times with Tiger and hearing the Tiger roars and Mickelson. I'm usually the guy that the crowd -- they appreciate but they're not behind me 100 percent of the way."

On whether he feels badly for robbing the world of a great story had Watson won: "I don't feel ashamed. I don't feel disappointed. I'm pleased as punch that I've won this tournament, and also proud of the way Tom Watson played because he showed -- not only did he show how great a golfer he is, but he showed what a great game we all play, the longevity that can exist, for a guy to come out and compete."


3:35 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

KFHightower@JasonSobel Cink is the only one that doesn't lay an egg down the stretch, birdies 18 to post a score; is this his win or other's wilting?

It's his win ... but he got a little help from not only Tom Watson on 18, but Lee Westwood, as well. Though everyone will be talking about the missed par attempt for Watson on that final hole, it was Westy who blew an even shorter putt that would have eventually gotten him into a playoff.

And if he were playing those four holes with Cink and Watson, it could have been a much different result. That said, though, Cink played very well down the stretch and in the playoff. Even if Watson had played those four holes in 1-under-par, he still would have lost by a shot, so Cink should be commended for his play.

Dimonator@JasonSobel early odds on TW (not Tiger) winning next year at St. Andrews?

After seeing Greg Norman come close last year and Watson this year, I'm not counting anybody out. Hell, Old Tom Morris himself may win this thing next year. Or he may just come agonizingly close, like the other old dudes.

RockabyeArena@JasonSobel If you had to pick a favorite for the PGA, who would it be?

Not saying he's going to win -- I won't make predictions until the week of the tournament anymore -- but the prohibitive favorite, every time he tees it up, remains Tiger Woods. It would be silly to even call someone else the favorite, British Open MC or not.


3:21 p.m. ET: Tom Watson is all class.

Perhaps no other player, after coming so close to a major championship victory of such historic proportions, would have sat down in the interview room and -- before a question was even asked -- look out at the assembled media and say this: "This ain't a funeral, you know."

Here are some more highlights from his interview session ...

On coming so close: "It would have been a hell of a story. It wasn't to be. And yes, it's a great disappointment. It tears at your gut, as it always has torn at my gut. It's not easy to take. ... But you're going to ask me, what do I take from this week? Well, I take from this week just a lot of warmth, a lot of spirituality in the sense that, you know, there was something out there. I still believe that. It helped me along. It's Turnberry. Great memories here. This would have been a great memory."

On why he played poorly in the playoff: "I don't know. The swing just wasn't, you know, it just wasn't quite there. I was trying to do the same things as I did before."

On his favorite memory of the week: "Well, I think coming up the 18th hole again. Those memories are hard to forget. Coming up in the amphitheater of the crowd and having the crowd cheering you on like they do here for me. As I said, the feeling is mutual. And that warmth makes you feel human. It makes you feel so good."

On whether he can win next year at St. Andrews: "Well, it depends on the wind. If the wind comes from the west there, I have a hard time with that golf course. Hole No. 4 gets me. I can't hit it far enough to get it over the junk. You have the rough there, and it depends on how deep the rough is. I'm driving into the rough all the time. It's like the 10th hole at Bethpage Black there at the first U.S. Open; when they moved the tee back, nobody could get to the fairway. But I feel like I can play St. Andrews. I still have some of the shots to be able to play that golf course. We'll just have to see."


3:12 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

Stewart Cink isn't just the first major winner to tweet -- well, at the time of his victory, at least; Davis Love III and Trevor Immelman tweet, too -- he's the first one to acknowledge, uh, this ...

@stewartcink Pretty sure I have swine flu. I thought if you like BBQ as much as I do, that your antibodies would be built up against it!

I think that was a joke. At least, I hope it was. Might not want to get too close to the Claret Jug, just in case.


3:08 p.m. ET: Tom Watson is currently in the interview room. I'll try to keep the live blog going until he's done, so I can share some of the highlights of what he had to say after the round.


3:01 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

Kenorv@JasonSobel I feel bad for Tom. One hole away from making history and he can't close the deal. I was really hoping that he would win it.

You're not alone. This tournament will forever be remembered more as the one that Tom Watson nearly won than the one that Stewart Cink did win.

Then again, it's not as if he totally blew up, either. This is unlike, say, the 1996 Masters, where Greg Norman shot a final-round 76, or the 1999 British Open, where Jean Van de Velde made triple-bogey on the final hole of regulation.

Watson shot a very respectable 2-over 72. He certainly had his chances to pick up a few more strokes during regulation, but it's that final putt which will most be remembered. If you haven't seen it, it was a fairly poor attempt that never scared the hole from about 8 feet away.


2:55 p.m. ET: Most awkward part of the gig for any major champion? Standing in front of dozens of photographers while smiling and kissing a trophy for about 10 minutes. That's exactly what Stewart Cink is doing right now.

He's giving all sorts of poses, too - standing up, one knee, sitting, holding it aloft, kissing it.

Work it, Stew. Love the camera.


2:53 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink is part of a recent run of "party-pooper" major champions.

From ESPN stats guru Jon Kramer ...

2009 Open Championship: Stewart Cink beats Tom Watson in a 4-hole playoff after Watson bogeys the final hole of regulation. At 59, Watson was trying to win his 6th Open Championship and become the oldest major winner of all-time.

2009 U.S. Open: David Duval, ranked 882nd in the world, finds himself right in the hunt. But it's unheralded Lucas Glover who takes the title at soggy Bethpage Black.

2009 Masters: 48-year old Kenny Perry has his first major title in sight before bogeying the 17th and 18th holes in the 4th round. He goes on to lose to Angel Cabrera in a 3-man playoff that also included Chad Campbell.

2008 Open Championship: At 53, Greg Norman was trying to become the oldest major winner ever. Padraig Harrington caught him on Sunday at Royal Birkdale as he successfully defended his Open title.

One could make an argument that Tiger Woods was a party pooper by beating "Joe Golfer" Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open


2:43 p.m. ET: Is this year turning into 2003 revisited?

Six years ago, the biggest names were shut out at the major championships, as Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel won the titles.

So far this year, we have had Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink -- all very good players and very deserving champions, but never the favorites in the respective events.


2:41 p.m. ET: U-S-A! U-S-A!

With Stewart Cink's victory, the United States now has been home to 42 Open champions, breaking a tie with Scotland.


2:38 p.m. ET: According to one source, Stewart Cink could be had at 150-to-1 odds prior to the tournament, but I think I remember seeing him at 40- or 50-to-1.

Prior to the final round, you still could have gotten him at 14-to-1.


2:35 p.m. ET: Question for you, Watson supporters: Would you rather see him lose by a half-dozen shots in the playoff and know that his last remaining chance came on 18 in the playoff? Or would you have liked to see him in it until the end, only to lose to Cink's birdie on the last hole?

Which one eases the pain of having him lose the most?


2:34 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink holes the birdie putt, shares a warm handshake and some words with Watson, an embrace with his caddie and he is the 2009 Open Championship winner.


2:33 p.m. ET: I believe Stewart Cink needs to six-putt from a few feet in order to go to sudden death ...


2:32 p.m. ET: Watson chops out from the deep stuff and it finds the front of the 18th green, only to slide back off.

From there, he nearly holes it, but will instead tap in for bogey.


2:29 p.m. ET: It's almost too bad this wasn't closer right now, because Stewart Cink just hit the shot of his life.

With his approach from the fairway, Cink's ball stops about 2 feet short of the hole. Fantastic shot from there, whether it mattered or not.


2:27 p.m. ET: Free drop for Watson as his ball was on the other side of the metal fence separating the gallery.

From there, he hits it short and left of the green. Even a terrific up and down won't matter now.


2:25 p.m. ET: If Watson still had the teensiest-eensiest sliver of a chance to win ... he just lost it.

Old Tom fans his tee shot on 18 into the gallery on the right side.

Twenty years ago, Greg Norman conceded his part in a playoff at Royal Troon, but Watson will keep going. Even so, it appears to be a fruitless attempt, as he's down by 4 with Cink already in the fairway.


2:24 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink could wedge his way down the 18th hole and still win this tournament.

He uses an iron and safely finds the fairway.


2:20 p.m. ET: Oh, no.

Watson misses the 4-foot comebacker for bogey. He takes a double instead and his body language just shows that he can't wait to be done with this.

Meanwhile, Cink taps in for birdie and holds a 4-stroke advantage going to the final hole of the playoff.

Through 3 holes: Cink 11, Watson 15.


2:19 p.m. ET: Cink similarly lags his long eagle attempt to a few feet. Should be able to make birdie from there.


2:18 p.m. ET: Watson gives it a valiant effort, but can't hole the lengthy par attempt.

He'll tap in for bogey -- his first non-birdie of the week at this hole.


2:17 p.m. ET: Though Cink has never won a major, he'd be far and away the highest-ranked player to win one so far this season.

Here are the world rankings for the first two winners and Cink:

• Angel Cabrera (Masters): 69

• Lucas Glover (U.S. Open): 71

• Stewart Cink (British Open): 33

It would be the first time the first three majors have all been won by players outside the top 10 since 1999 when Jose Maria Olazabal (34th), Payne Stewart (13th) and Paul Lawrie (159th) won.


2:16 p.m. ET: Watson's fourth shot finds the front of the green, but it's hardly what he was looking for.

He'll have about a 40-footer for par, while Cink has a putt from a similar distance for eagle.


2:15 p.m. ET: With little pressure on him, considering Watson's predicament, Cink knocks his second shot onto the front part of the green.

Unless something really unpredictable happens here, the final hole of this playoff could simply turn into a Stewart Cink coronation.


2:14 p.m. ET: Watson punches his third shot down the fairway. He'll still have 140 yards left from there.


2:13 p.m. ET: The expression on Watson's face almost makes it seem as though he's resigned to the fact that this is already over.

In fact, that's been his expression ever since missing the putt on 18 in regulation. It's as if he knew he just didn't have four more holes in him.


2:12 p.m. ET: Watson does give it a try ... but he was right.

He barely advances the ball from that buried lie and will still be hitting his third shot from the deep heather.


2:11 p.m. ET: Watson's ball is found, but it's buried.

He tells caddie Neil Oxman: "I don't know if I can get it out of there, Ox, but I'll give it a try."


2:10 p.m. ET: The search party is out. No one seems to be able to find Watson's ball.

Wherever it is, it's not going to be a favorable lie.


2:08 p.m. ET: Watson off the tee ... and that one is left of left.

He pulled that drive into the thick hay on the left side, following by saying, "Oh, boy" in disappointment.

Of course, Lee Westwood nearly made eagle from a similar spot earlier, so this doesn't necessarily mean he can't post a decent score here.


2:07 p.m. ET: Off the tee, Cink finds the short left rough. He should be able to reach the green from there.


2:05 p.m. ET: For about the fifth time today, allow me to write that No. 17 will be a crucial hole.

As they head to the third of four playoff holes, here are their scores here so far this week:

• Watson: Birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie.
• Cink: Birdie-birdie-birdie-par.

Cink's only par came earlier this afternoon, as he missed a fairly short birdie putt. He didn't know it at the time, but that one would have given him the title in regulation.


2:04 p.m. ET: Cink cleans up his par as well, and there's no blood on that hole.

Through two holes: Cink 7, Watson 8.


2:03 p.m. ET: Tom Watson has subsisted on mid-range par putts throughout the week and he's got another tough one here.

From 10 feet away ... and it's good!

Great up and down for Watson. He stays at 1-over for the playoff.


2:02 p.m. ET: Big right-to-left bender for Cink from some 30 feet or so ...

He gets it there, but misses on the high side and it trickles about 3 feet past. Will have that left for par.


2 p.m. ET: Nice shot by Watson out of the gallery. Runs it about 10 feet past the hole and will have yet another testy par attempt.


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

Yes, Stewart Cink is a Twitter user, with an astounding 558,394 followers.

Tom Watson? Uh, not exactly.

"Don't ask me to twit or tweet," he said on Thursday. "I don't tweet."


1:56 p.m. ET: Uh-oh. Tom Watson fans his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole well left of the green and into the spectators.

Sort of reminiscent of Greg Norman's approach into the final green at the Masters back in 1986.

It will be a very difficult up and down from there.


1:55 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink safely on the green, about 30 feet from the hole to the back right.


1:54 p.m. ET: For the record, contending at major championships is nothing new to Stewart Cink.

Here are his best previous finishes:

• 2008 Masters: T-3

• 2001 U.S. Open: 3rd

• 1999 PGA Championship: T-3

• 2007 British Open: T-6


1:53 p.m. ET: Cink to take a lead here in the playoff ...

And it just barely slides into the left side of the cup. Very nice up and down for Cink to make his par.

Through one hole: Cink 4, Watson 5


1:52 p.m. ET: Watson 2-putts from there to post a bogey. Not what he was looking for, of course, but it was important to not turn that into a much bigger number.


1:50 p.m. ET: An even tougher shot for Watson out of the bunker than Cink.

He leaves it well short and will have a 30-footer up the hill to save par.


1:49 p.m. ET: Cink will play his shot first ...

Very solid shot, stops about 6 feet short of the hole. He will have that left for par.

Remember: This is a four-hole aggregate score, not -- I repeat, NOT -- match play.


1:48 p.m. ET: Yikes. Watson doesn't exactly have a great lie in this front bunker.

About two feet behind the huge lip. And pretty much in the same position as Cink's ball, which is in the right bunker.


1:46 p.m. ET: Tom Watson can't take advantage, though.

Looks like he needed an extra club there, as he came up short and found the front bunker himself.


1:45 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink from the fairway ... and he hit it to the right.

The ball trickles into the bunker and may be right up against the lip. Very, very tough shot from there.


1:44 p.m. ET: I've been asked how much daylight there is to finish this playoff.

Honestly? You can easily play until about 10:15 p.m. local time, meaning we have another three-and-a-half hours.

That means Watson and Cink could still be tied through the four-hole playoff, then play maybe another 14 holes of sudden death golf, too, before we hit darkness.

And you know what? If that happens, I have zero problem coming back tomorrow.


1:42 p.m. ET: No friendly conversation as they walk down the fifth fairway.

Each man walking by himself.


1:41 p.m. ET: And now here's Stewart Cink ...

Using an iron off the tee, he splits the fairway as well.

Good start for both players.


1:40 p.m. ET: Tom Watson will have the honor off the fifth tee.

Tough hole. Remember: This is where Ross Fisher took a snowman earlier today.

No problem for Watson so far. Pipes one right down the fairway.


1:33 p.m. ET: Here is the list of four-hole playoffs since 1989 at the Open Championship:

• 2007: Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia by 1 stroke (Carnoustie)

• 2004: Todd Hamilton defeated Ernie Els by 1 stroke (Royal Troon)

• 2002: Ernie Els defeated Thomas Levet on first sudden death hole after four-hole playoff with Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington (Muirfield)

• 1999: Paul Lawrie defeated Justin Leonard and Jean Van de Velde by 3 shots (Carnoustie)

• 1998: Mark O'Meara defeated Brian Watts by 2 (Royal Birkdale)

• 1995: John Daly defeated Costantino Rocca by 4 shots (St. Andrews)

• 1989: Mark Calcavecchia defeated Wayne Grady and Greg Norman (Royal Troon)


1:31 p.m. ET: Here are each player's PGA Tour playoff records:

• Tom Watson: 9-4 (Won 1975 British Open, lost 1978 PGA Championship, lost 1979 Masters)
• Cink 1-2 (Won 2004 MCI Heritage)


1:29 p.m. ET: Heard in the press room ...

"Stewart Cink is about to be the most hated man in the universe."

He's a tough dude to hate, but as a historian of the game himself, Cink is well aware that a playoff victory certainly wouldn't have the same effect as one from Tom Watson.

Uh, doesn't exactly mean he's gonna let the old-timer win, either.


1:27 p.m.ET: If Lee Westwood didn't just smash his putter against a wall somewhere, I'd be shocked.

And if there's someone who can feel his pain, it's Stewart Cink.

At the 2001 U.S. Open, Cink was simply trying to get out of the way for presumed winner Retief Goosen on the final hole. He wound up missing an 18-inch putt and when Goosen three-putted, realized that a made putt would have given him a spot in the playoff.

Same deal for Westwood today, who has now come within a putt of making a playoff at two of the last five major championships.


1:25 p.m. ET: We've talked about it throughout this week, but toward the end of his regular, full-time playing career on the PGA Tour, Tom Watson was a guy who really struggled with putts from the 4-8 foot range.

This week, he appeared cured of those issues for the first three rounds, but he missed a handful from the longer end of that range today.


1:24 p.m. ET: And now here's the putt for the victory. Officially listed at eight feet ...

And Tom Watson pushes it to the right!!!

That's a bogey for Watson and the drama continues!


1:22 p.m. ET: Tom Watson rolls one up the slope and at the hole ... and right past it.

He leaves about a 6-foot comebacker for par.

We've seen him knock these down all week. One more and he'll be the Open champion. If he misses, it's back to the fifth tee box with Stewart Cink.


1:21 p.m. ET: Looks like Tom Watson's ball is about 25-30 feet above the hole.

And he's got a putter in his hands.


1:19 p.m. ET: Tom Watson from the middle of the fairway on 18 ... hits the middle of the green ... going right at the flagstick ... and it keeps going ...

The ball rolls down the slope behind the green and finally stops on the rough just above it.

Will be a tough up and down, but this shot isn't too much unlike the eagle putt he rolled on 17. There just may be too much uphill slope for him to putt from there.


1:18 p.m. ET: Tom Watson is safely on the fairway off the tee.

A par and he'll be the Open champion. A bogey and he'll be in a four-hole playoff with Stewart Cink.


1:16 p.m. ET: Oh no!!!

Lee Westwood misses the short comebacker and is forced to make bogey.

That means a final-round 71 and he's done at 1-under.

Unbelievable mistake. If Tom Watson makes bogey here, he'll be kicking himself for years.


1:15 p.m. ET: Well, at least he didn't leave it short.

Lee Westwood gives his birdie attempt a good effort on 18, but runs it just past the hole. He'll make par from there and finish with a final-round even-par 70.

That leaves him in a share of second place with Stewart Cink at 2-under-par.

And it means that Tom Watson only needs a par to win his sixth career Claret Jug.


1:13 p.m. ET: Usually when a guy wins a major championship, they say, "He'll be able to tell his grandchildren about that someday."

For Tom Watson, that day will be sooner than most.


1:09 p.m. ET: Lee Westwood is taking a long time thinking over this bunker shot from just off the left of the 18th fairway.

He finally hits and gets it up over the lip and onto the front right part of the green. He'll have about 35 feet left for birdie.

Remember: At last year's U.S. Open, Westwood had a similar birdie putt on the 72nd hole in a similar position on the leaderboard and left it short. Will he play on that experience and at least make sure to get it there this time?


1:07 p.m. ET: Tom Watson elects to employ the putter from behind the green.

Good choice.

Old Tom safely knocks it to about 2 feet and cleans up his birdie from there.

And here we go, folks ...

Heading to the final tee, Tom Watson leads the Open Championship by one stroke. Amazing.


1:02 p.m. ET: On many PGA Tour courses, Tom Watson may not have the length to reach a par-5 in two. Here? No problem.

Watson hits what looks to be a terrific shot into the 17th green, but it bounces and keeps rolling past the hole.

It finally lands on the back rough just above the fringe, but only about 15-20 from the hole. He'll have at least a chance at eagle and should be able to get up and down for birdie, like Westwood did a minute ago.


1:01 p.m. ET: Lee Westwood with the improbable eagle attempt on 17 ... and it just barely misses falling into the right side of the cup.

Wow, that was so close!

Westy will tap in for birdie and move to 2-under once again, in a share of the lead with Tom Watson and Stewart Cink.

His last three holes: Bogey-bogey-birdie. If nothing else, it's been exciting to watch.


12:58 p.m. ET: Is Mathew Goggin out of it? Maybe, maybe not.

At even-par with two holes to play, he still has a chance, but will need at least a birdie-birdie or eagle-par finish to be in the mix.


12:56 p.m. ET: Chris Wood, the clubhouse leader at 1-under, headed to the practice tee a few minutes ago, but he can now head for the car park instead.

That's because Stewart Cink has rolled in his birdie attempt at 18 and now takes the new clubhouse lead at 2-under.

It may not be good enough, though. Lee Westwood will make at least a birdie on 17; if he does, it will take a par on 18 for him to remain at 2-under and give Cink a shot at the title.


12:54 p.m. ET: Um, did somebody write something about eagle not being possible for Lee Westwood?

He just chopped out of the thick stuff left of the fairway and banged one to about 15 feet short of the hole.

Fantastic shot, nearly reminiscent of Padraig Harrington's 3-wood on 17 at Birkdale a year ago.

He'll at least make birdie here, maybe eagle.


12:53 p.m. ET: Tom Watson with a knee-knocker to save par ... and it's good.

Watson stays at 2-under, still up by a single shot, though Stewart Cink could tie him by making his upcoming birdie putt.

Next up for Old Tom? That crucial 17th hole.


12:52 p.m. ET: Great shot by Stewart Cink into the 18th green.

His approach hits the green and finally stops rolling about 10 feet to the right. Very makeable birdie putt from there to move to 2-under.


12:51 p.m. ET: Tom Watson with the lengthy birdie attempt on No. 16 for a 2-shot lead ... and it never has a chance.

Old Tom leaves it right of the hole. Only has about 3-4 feet left for par.


12:48 p.m. ET: Remember how I wrote that the 17th hole would be crucial down the stretch?

Well, further proof that eagle is a possibility just occurred, as Retief Goosen just made one to get back to even-par.

Meanwhile, further back on the hole, Lee Westwood just blew his tee shot way left. Can he make birdie from there? Remains to be seen, but eagle is certainly out of the question.


12:47 p.m. ET: Tom Watson hits his second shot on 16 to about 40 feet left of the hole.

Hmmm ... when was the last time we saw him make a lengthy putt at this hole?

Oh wait -- it was each of the last two days, as he's made this green his own personal putt-putt heaven.


12:43 p.m. ET: From about 135 yards in the fairway, Lee Westwood needs four more shots to get into the hole, barely missing his 20-foot par putt.

That's a second straight bogey for Westwood, who falls to 1-under.

And that means ...

With three holes to play, Tom Watson is in sole possession of the British Open lead.

Let me repeat that once more ...

WITH THREE HOLES TO PLAY, TOM WATSON IS IN SOLE POSSESSION OF THE BRITISH OPEN LEAD.

We may be about 30 minutes away from history.


12:42 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink with a birdie putt on the par-5 17th for a share of the lead ... and he misses.

On a hole that I believe is yielding more birdies than pars today, that's like giving one back to the field.


12:41 p.m. ET: We've seen Lee Westwood get into these situations before, only to implode.

Could it happen again? Westwood just left his chip on No. 16 about 20 feet short of the hole. Will have that left for par.


12:38 p.m. ET: Tom Watson makes his 2-putt on the 15th for par. Mathew Goggin suffers the same fate as Lee Westwood and makes bogey from the bunker.

That leaves Watson and Westy atop the leaderboard at 2-under, with Goggin and Stewart Cink tied with Chris Wood at 1-under, just a single shot back.


12:32 p.m. ET: Here's guessing Mathew Goggin could have learned a thing or two from Lee Westwood on 15.

Goggin finds the exact same back-left bunker. Meanwhile, Tom Watson has a 25-footer coming up for birdie.


12:29 p.m. ET: From ESPN's Stats and Information Dept.:

Lee Westwood might not be "the best player to have never won a major," but he's certainly in the discussion. Interesting that Phil Mickelson was 0-for-46 in majors before breaking through at the 2004 Masters. Westwood entered the 2009 Open Championship ... you guessed it ... 0-for-46 in majors.

Here are the numbers for Mickelson when he won his first one ...

• Event: 2004 Masters
• Age: 33
• World Rank: 8

And for Westwood, should he win ...

• Event: 2009 British Open
• Age: 36
• World Rank: 17

These things are always estimations at best, but I would think that a victory today would move Westwood either into the top-five on the OWGR or very close to it.


12:27 p.m. ET: Lee Westwood barely lifts his bunker shot above the lip and it rolls to about 25 feet past the hole.

From there, he can only 2-putt.

That's a bogey for each of the four leaders in a four-minute span.


12:25 p.m. ET: Beep ... beep ... beep ...

They're all backing up!!!

A mere seconds after Watson and Goggin make bogey, Stewart Cink follows with one of his own at the 16th. He drops to 1-under.

"Chris Wood, please report to the practice tee. We repeat: Chris Wood, please report to the practice tee."


12:24 p.m. ET: Of course, Lee Westwood's sole possession of the lead may not last very long.

Westy's tee shot on No. 15 hits the back of the green and bounds into the bunker behind it.

Will be a tough up and down from there.


12:23 p.m. ET: If this was match play, Tom Watson and Mathew Goggin would have halved the last three holes.

Goggin follows Watson's bogey on 14 with one of his own and they're each now at 2-under, one behind Lee Westwood.


12:22 p.m. ET: Tom Watson with the 8-footer for par ... and he just barely misses.

Ouch.

That one really hurts. And Old Tom makes bogey to drop out of the lead.


12:20 p.m. ET: It's officially a four-man race for the Claret Jug.

At even-par with four holes to play, Retief Goosen was still lurking, but he just took a double on the 15th hole and drops to 2-over.

That leaves Lee Westwood, Tom Watson, Mathew Goggin and Stewart Cink at the top. Can't imagine they're each going to falter so much down the stretch that Chris Wood -- at 1-under in the clubhouse -- has a chance.


12:18 p.m. ET: Tom Watson chips to about 8 feet on No. 14. He'll have that left for par.

Wait -- a mid-range par putt for Old Tom? Where have we seen this before? Dude has holed an absolute ton of these all week.


12:15 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

johnfmcdermott@JasonSobel Can pro golfs #1 Twit pull it off?

I believe Stewart Cink would prefer being referred to as a "tweeter" than a "twit," but I get the point.

And yes, he would be the first major winner with his own Twitter account. In a copycat sport, I've gotta believe that a win today would have 50 more guys signing up by tomorrow morning.

I spoke with Cink about his Twitter addiction recently for this Hot Seat interview.

Can he pull it off? One shot back with three to play, he is very much in the mix. The 17th hole is going to be so important. If one of the top four can make an eagle -- and we've seen a few there already today -- that could win him the title.


12:13 p.m. ET: Another pair of pars for Tom Watson and Mathew Goggin at No. 13.

Five holes to play. Three-way tie for the lead.

Might want to stick around for awhile. This could be interesting.


12:11 p.m. ET: Great putt -- yes, a putt from well short of the green -- by Lee Westwood to about 2 feet. There's that crucial up and down he needed.

He'll remain at 3-under and in a share of the lead.


12:09 p.m. ET: Wow. I know No. 14 is playing into the blower, but Lee Westwood just fanned his approach shot to about 40 yards short of the green.

Will be another crucial up and down from there if he is to remain tied for the lead.


12:08 p.m. ET: An addendum to that earlier note: The four playoff holes would be Nos. 5, 6, 17 and 18.


12:04 p.m. ET: Stewart Cink from 8 feet away for birdie on the 15th hole ... and he rolls it in.

Cink now moves into sole possession of fourth place at 2-under, just a single shot behind the firm of Watson, Westwood & Goggin.


12:03 p.m. ET: Just a reminder ...

In the case of a tie after 72 holes, a four-hole playoff will commence on Sunday afternoon. The player with the lowest total score on those four holes will be the winner.

If there's still a tie after that, sudden death will be used to break the deadlock. There have been seven four-hole aggregate playoffs in Open Championship history, the first of which occurred in 1989. The last four-hole playoff was in 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie.


11:59 a.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

PhillipErickson@JasonSobel Watson, Westwood and Goggin - sounds like a prestigious London law firm.

Couldn't you say that about any three players, though?

Personally, in case of any legal troubles here in Scotland this week, I was to be represented by the firm of Saltman & Saltman, who barely beat out Manassero & Molinari.

Speaking of player names, John Daly teed it up with Branden Grace today. A cynic could contend it was the first time JD ever played with grace.


11:54 a.m. ET: Tom Watson and Mathew Goggin each make par on No. 12.

With six holes to play, we have a three-way tie at the top.


11:51 a.m. ET: "He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!"

Scut Farkus -- er, Chris Wood -- can't convert his par effort on the final hole and settles for bogey instead.

That's a final-round 67 and he's your new clubhouse leader at 1-under-par.

With only four players -- Lee Westwood, Tom Watson, Mathew Goggin and Stewart Cink -- currently ahead of him, Wood might not want to go anywhere for a while.


11:44 a.m. ET: Nearly reminiscent of Ross Fisher on No. 2 earlier today, Lee Westwood was forced to chip out with his second shot on No. 12.

From there, he pitched one right at the flagstick, only to have it hit the stick and roll a few feet away. Almost went in for birdie.


11:39 a.m. ET: After a full week holing putts from all over the greens, Tom Watson hasn't made anything today.

Until now.

Watson drains a 30-footer on No. 11 to move to 3-under and -- again -- move into a share of the lead with Lee Westwood and Mathew Goggin.

Huge, huge putt right there -- for a variety of reasons.


11:35 a.m. ET: E-mail from Randy in Parts Unknown:

Who knew that Scut Farkas from "A Christmas Story" would turn out to be a pro golfer?

"Scut Farkus! What a rotten name! We were trapped. There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!"

Wow. You can really tell how he's matured from this to this.


11:34 a.m. ET: Chris Wood with the 15-footer for birdie on No. 17 ... and it's in!

Wood moves to 2-under-par, within 1 stroke of the lead with one to play.

Unless he blows up on the final hole, Wood will be clubhouse leader for at least an hour or so until the last few groups finish their rounds.


11:30 a.m. ET: Tom Watson with the birdie attempt on 10 ... from about 10 feet ... a left-to-right breaker ... and it just barely slides past the hole.

That one was merely inches from going down.

Meanwhile, Mathew Goggin was inside his playing partner and is able to convert his birdie putt, moving to 3-under and a share of the Open lead with Lee Westwood.

The 35-year-old from Tasmania who hasn't won a professional tourney in 10 years is hanging tough out here today.


11:28 a.m. ET: Decent tee shot for leader Lee Westwood on the par-3 11th hole.

Hits it to the back left corner of the fringe, but spins it back onto the green. He'll have about a 35-40 foot putt left for birdie.


11:27 a.m. ET: Great shot by Tom Watson on No. 10. Knocks it to about 10 feet above the hole.

He'll have that left for birdie and a share of the lead once again.


11:25 a.m. ET: Well, they used to say the Masters didn't start until the back nine. Is that true of the Open Championship, too?

If so, we just got under way, as the final pairing of Tom Watson and Mathew Goggin just hit their tee shots on No. 10.

Remember: At this point in last year's Open, Greg Norman was still the leader, but he wound up getting blitzed by Padraig Harrington, which just proves that anything can happen on the back nine at this event.


11:23 a.m. ET: Lee Westwood runs into trouble on No. 10.

Left with a lengthy par putt from the right side of the green, he misses by inches and drops a shot, now at 3-under and only up by a single stroke.


11:20 a.m. ET: Bogey for Tom Watson on the ninth hole and he makes the turn in 2-over 37 with three bogeys and a lone birdie.

After yesterday's third round, Watson spoke about sticking to his game plan and though it likely didn't include going over par for his front nine, he may not be far off.

"My game plan is basically the number of birdies and bogeys that I think I have to make to win," he said. "I can afford to make a certain number of bogeys, and I have to make up for them with a certain number of birdies, and that's been my game plan."

He's now at 2-under, a pair of strokes behind leader Lee Westwood.


11:14 a.m. ET: Luke Donald records a par on the final hole and he is indeed the first player in the clubhouse at even-par, thanks to a sparkling final-round 67.

I don't see that number holding up, but this will certainly be his best finish in the Open Championship.

In eight previous starts, Donald has never finished better than T-35 and owns five MCs.


11:13 a.m. ET: After getting over his lengthy 40-foot birdie putt on 16, Chris Wood steps away and reassesses the situation.

He finally hits it and it's rolling toward the hole and ... it barely misses.

Wood remains at 1-under. This kid has a beautiful putting stroke, though. At that height, I wonder if he's using about a 36- or 37-inch putter.


11:11 a.m. ET: Nice bounce-back for Stewart Cink on No. 11.

After making bogey, he comes back with birdie on the next hole to get back to 1-under-par.

He's back in a share of fourth place.


11:06 a.m. ET: Might as well mention Luke Donald's name for perhaps one of the first times all week.

With a birdie on the par-5 17th hole, Donald is now at even-par playing the last. If he can make par here, he would be the first player in the clubhouse at even-par or better.

Might not want to leave for a little while -- well, for a few minutes, at least, until Chris Wood finishes up.


10:57 a.m. ET: Mrs. Fisher, if you're reading this right now ... you can go ahead and make that phone call. Your hubby probably wouldn't mind leaving the course right now.

After getting to 5-under through four holes, he's played his last three holes in 6-over, going triple-bogey-bogey.

In related news, neither Phil Mickelson nor Tiger Woods won majors on the day before their first child was born, so at least he's in good company.


10:55 a.m. ET: Just for the hell of it ... Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink.

There. Just wanted to mention both of 'em once more ... you know, just in case they win this thing or something.

Each player is at 1-under right now, just staying patient, staying in the hunt.


10:53 a.m. ET: E-mail from Steven in Amsterdam:

Lee Westwood and Chris Wood are both in the hunt. Who said Woods wouldn't be a factor this Sunday?

Damn. And here I put all my money on Woody Austin and Willie Wood.


10:51 a.m. ET: Bogeys from the likes of Ross Fisher and Justin Leonard notwithstanding, the par-5 seventh hole is a birdie hole today.

Each guy in the final pairing just made one, as Tom Watson moves to 3-under -- one behind Lee Westwood -- and Mathew Goggin moves to 2-under.


10:48 a.m. ET: Contending at a major is nothing new to Lee Westwood. Here are his career best finishes at a major:

• 2008 U.S. Open: 3rd
• 2004 British Open: 4th
• 2000 U.S. Open: T-5
• 1999 Masters: T-6
• 1998 U.S. Open: T-7

Remember: Had Westwood not left his birdie putt short on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines last year, that Monday playoff could have been much different, with him joining Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.


10:45 a.m. ET: Lee Westwood could be in for a major payday.

Westy drains his eagle putt on No. 7 to move to 4-under, 2 shots clear of Tom Watson.

Let's see if he doesn't go "Fish-ing" by emulating what Ross Fisher did earlier when he owned a multiple-shot lead.


10:39 a.m. ET: It says something about the difficulty of playing conditions that Tom Watson is 2-over through six holes and still remains in a share of the lead.

If Watson should win, he would trump some big-time names who have won as elder statesmen in their respective sports. Here is a list of those who have enjoyed successful accomplishments in other pursuits:

Oldest to win World Series: Jack Quinn (47 years, 91 days)
Oldest to win Super Bowl: Jeff Feagles (41 years, 333 days)
Oldest to win NFL Championship (before the Super Bowl began): Ben Agajanian (42 years, 125 days)
Oldest to win NBA Championship: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (41 years, 66 days)
Oldest to win Olympic swimming medal: Dara Torres: (41)
Oldest to win Tour de France: Firmin Lambot (36)
Oldest to win Indianapolis 500: Al Unser (47 years, 360 days)
Oldest to win Daytona 500: Bobby Allison (50)
Oldest to win Kentucky Derby: Bill Shoemaker (54)
Oldest to win Wimbledon Singles (male): AW Gore (41)
Oldest to win Wimbledon Singles (female): Charlotte Cooper (37)
Oldest to win Stanley Cup: Chris Chelios (46)
Oldest to win boxing heavyweight title: George Foreman (45)

In fact, Watson was asked this week if he was golf's answer to Foreman: "No, I don't name all my kids George," he said. "My kids have different names."


10:37 a.m. ET: After that birdie on No. 6, Lee Westwood hits a brilliant 3-iron second shot into the par-5 seventh green.

He'll have about 15 feet left for eagle and a potential 2-shot advantage over the field.


10:34 a.m. ET: You know the long-standing live blog rule: Make me laugh and your e-mail gets in.

From Adam in Memphis:

If Chris Wood doesn't win, then he's got to be the frontrunner for the caddie scholarship, right? As long as he stays away from the judge's niece.

So he's got that going for him ... which is nice.


10:32 a.m. ET: At 21 years, 7 months and 23 days old, Chris Wood would become the third-youngest champion in Open history and youngest in more than 115 years.

Here's the current list:

1868: Young Tom Morris: 17 years, 5 months, 3 days
1893: Willie Auchterlonie: 21 years, 24 days
1979: Seve Ballesteros: 22 years, 3 months, 12 days

His chances weren't helped on 13, though, as he just posted his first bogey of the day to drop to 1-under. That leaves Tom Watson and Lee Westwood as the co-leaders at 2-under.


10:30 a.m. ET: Interesting note on Westwood: He has a sponsorship deal with Dunlop. They pay him no money in the deal, but he wears their logo on his shirt.

If Westy wins a major, though, he will receive one million pounds from the company.

That's more than he would receive in prize money, as the champion will get 750,000 pounds this week.


10:27 a.m. ET: Since his last European Tour win in 2007, Lee Westwood has had five runner-up finishes and a bunch of other close calls.

Either he'll break that streak today or come dangerously close once again.

Westwood rolls in a birdie putt on No. 6 to take a share of the lead at 2-under.


10:26 a.m. ET: Another lengthy birdie attempt for Tom Watson on the fifth hole ... and once again, he leaves it inches short of the hole.

Old Tom makes par and remains in a share of the lead with Chris Wood.


10:23 a.m. ET: Lots of leaderboard shuffling. Time to regroup.

As it stands right now, Tom Watson and Chris Wood -- an age differential of 38 years between them -- are tied for the lead at 2-under.

Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood, Retief Goosen and Mathew Goggin are each one shot back and Ross Fisher is 2 behind.

Very good chance that Chris Wood will be able to post a number -- he teed off 1 hour and 35 minutes before the final pairing -- and wait in the Turnberry clubhouse to see if it holds up.


10:20 a.m. ET: You can't even find ice for a drink in this country, let alone a snowman.

And yet, that's what Ross Fisher just built for himself on the fifth hole -- a big ol' puffy snowman for his scorecard in the form of a quadruple-bogey.

He goes from a 2-shot leader at 4-under to solo seventh place at even-par.

In related news, his unborn child is already crying.


10:18 a.m. ET: Speaking of Chris Wood ... I think Ross Fisher just took a drop in his hair.

His Eng-fro makes that of Rory McIlroy look like a crew cut.


10:15 a.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

mwmiller20@JasonSobel haiku- Wood really skinny. Name should be twig or sapling. Wind knocks him over?

That one may have been my favorite of the week.

I think Chris Wood is listed at 6-foot-5, 118 pounds. No truth to the rumor that playing partner Justin Rose hit him with an approach shot because he thought he was the flagstick.

Wood with a birdie attempt on 12 to take what will be the outright lead when -- uh, if -- Ross Fisher ever finishes this hole ... and it barely stays out from about 25 feet. He stays at 2-under.


10:12 a.m. ET: So much for having that shot left for par.

Ross Fisher is forced to take a drop for his fourth stroke. He'll now be hitting his fifth on No. 5 from the rough left of the hole.

From there, he just knocked it back onto the fairway, but I've seen this movie before: "How to Lose a Lead in 10 Minutes."


10:10 a.m. ET: Over the first three days of the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, I don't think I ever typed the name "Michael Campbell" even once.

Of course, he wound up winning on Sunday.

I do believe that I typed "Chris Wood" a couple of times during the last three rounds, but not very often at all.

And yet, he's playing the best golf of anyone right now. The 21-year-old could be the next Open champion.

Stranger things have happened. I think.


10:09 a.m. ET: Army golf for Ross Fisher.

Sends one screaming across the fairway. Now in the bad stuff on the left. He'll, uh, have that left for par ... if he can find it.

Ouch.


10:08 a.m. ET: Tom Watson for birdie on No. 4 ... and it stays just short by inches.

Nice effort there. We've seen 'em fall all week for Old Tom, but that one doesn't find the cup.


10:07 a.m. ET: Ross Fisher can't advance his ball at all on No. 5.

Barely went anywhere.

Heard in the press room: "If his wife is watching, that may have just sent her into labor."


10:05 a.m. ET: Ross Fisher is doing his best Scott Norwood impersonation.

Wide right.

The tournament leader is way off the beaten path off the fifth tee. Gonna struggle once again to make par from there.


10:02 a.m. ET: Just in case you were wondering ... why, yes, there is a live blog of the Live Blog -- and a live blog of the live blog of the Live Blog, too.


9:59 a.m. ET: Those in second place were 3 shots back ... now they're only 2 from the lead.

Ross Fisher fails to get up and down from the thick stuff on the fourth hole. He drops a shot for the first time today and is now at 4-under overall.


9:57 a.m. ET: Make that a share of second place for Chris Wood.

Tom Watson misses his par attempt on No. 3, dropping into a share of the runner-up position with Wood, Lee Westwood and Mathew Goggin.

That's two bogeys in Watson's first three holes -- each coming from a missed mid-range par putt, something he has subsisted on throughout the week.


9:55 a.m. ET: Chris Wood is on fire.

The 6-foot-5 21-year-old from England may look more like a shooting guard than a pro golfer, but he's shooting the lights out right now.

After a front-nine 3-under 32, he just birdied the 10th hole and is now 4-under for the round and 2-under for the tourney.

That moves him into a share of third place.


9:54 a.m. ET: Tom Watson missed the green to the right on No. 3.

Hits a nice chip to about 6 feet, but that's yet another knee-knocking par-saver that he'll have.

Old Tom has feasted on these throughout the week. He'll need to make another one now.


9:51 a.m. ET: After a par on No. 3, Ross Fisher is in trouble on the fourth hole.

His tee shot goes wide right of the green and that's going to be an awfully tough up and down from there.


9:45 a.m. ET: E-mail from Luke in Atlanta:

Don't you think if the Fish had to walk off the course with the lead on the back nine because his wife was giving birth that it would be a bigger news story than Tom Watson winning?

Honestly, I don't think anything right now could overtake the story of Watson -- win or lose -- but that would certainly be something.

After his third round yesterday, Ross Fisher was asked whether he would really -- really! -- leave Turnberry should his wife go into labor:

"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."

He's certainly hoping that bridge doesn't come until after finishing the 18th hole later today.


9:42 a.m. ET: Tom Watson is in for par on the second hole. Stops the bleeding early.

Meanwhile, playing partner Mathew Goggin has followed his opening par with a bogey and he drops to 2-under, tied for third with Lee Westwood.


9:38 a.m. ET: While 59-year-old Tom Watson is the major story, some youngsters are making headlines of their own.

Last year's fifth-place finisher as an amateur, Chris Wood, is currently T-5 again, playing his last two holes in 3-under-par. He's playing as a pro now.

And British Amateur champ Matteo Manassero, at 16 the youngest player in this week's field, is 1-over for the tournament through 14 holes, holding steady in 10th place.


9:36 a.m. ET: Already negated spy report from the course:

Tom Watson made a ton of putts on the practice green. That bodes well for him.

Not so much. Not so far, at least.

Should have saved one of those makes in practice for the first green.


9:31 a.m. ET: The second hole is too soon for the "shot of the tournament" ... uh, right?

Maybe not.

After driving the ball well left on No. 2, Ross Fisher is left with a 30-yard uphill pitch and finds the bottom of the cup.

Just like that, it's a birdie-birdie start for the guy nicknamed Fish and he's now up by 2 strokes -- a 3-stroke differential within 21 minutes of teeing off.


9:28 a.m. ET: Theme of the week for Tom Watson: Hit the fairway off the tee. Second shot into the bunker. Indifferent pitch onto the green. Slams home a mid-range putt to save par.

And that's exactly what just happened on the first hole today ... except for slamming home the putt.

Watson pushes the 8-foot par attempt and that's a bogey to start the round.

And with a birdie in the group ahead on the first hole, Ross Fisher is now your solo leader at the Open.


9:23 a.m. ET: After his opening-round 65, Tom Watson talked about getting what he termed a "modern day text":

"I received a text, modern day text from Barbara Nicklaus," he said. "Barbara made the comment, she saw my caddie's picture and said he looked very good, tell him he looked very good. And she also wished me good luck. I texted her back and said, 'You know, we really miss you over here.' And I really meant it. It's not the same without Jack playing in the tournament."

My buddy Bob Smiley has posted some of Watson's other text messages to his blog:

From: Mitch Holberg, Agent
Yo Tommy -- Just got the specs on the Flomax deal. 7-figures, 2 years, and you don't have to film any commercials with you running into a port-o-potty. We in or out?

From: Gary Player
I know you think you're hot stuff because you might tie me today with 9 majors, but I just ran a half-marathon and followed it up with some antelope wrestling. I say bring it, pansy..

From: T-Mobile Customer Service
Dear Mr. Watson. This text is to inform you that your phone is not currently set up with an international calling plan and as a result, you are being charged roaming fees for every text sent and opened. Your July bill currently stands at $139,752.

From: Jack Nicklaus
Tom this iS Jack Nicklaus. I am seNding you a "text messAge" from Barbara's cellular telephone. Hope this works. Good luck tod&Ay. Jack.

Actually, that last one may not have been too far off. On his personal Web site, Nicklaus answered questions about his correspondence with Watson:

Have you had a chance to talk to Tom yet?
JACK: No, but just a few minutes ago, Barbara sent to Tom my very first text, ever. Barbara has been texting him all week, but that was my first.

And it said?
JACK: That is just something between the two of us. He'll have to tell you.

You can bet Watson will be asked about it after his round.


9:20 a.m. ET: Now on the tee ... Tom Watson!

Just as he has in each of the previous three rounds, Old Tom pounds an iron right down the fairway.

And they're off ...


9:17 a.m. ET: Even with the tough conditions, some players are making a move up the leaderboard.

Ernie Els, Andres Romero and amateur Matteo Manassero are each 3-under-par for their rounds; Chris Wood, Luke Donald, Soren Hansen and Paul Lawrie are each 2-under.

On my way to the course this morning, noting the more severe weather, I believed even-par could be the final winning score at the end of the day. Starting to rethink that notion, though, based on some of these numbers. It may be closer to 3-under, which means a round of even-par or maybe even 1-over 71 could be enough to get it done for Tom Watson.


9:12 a.m. ET: Are we sure they didn't play Thursday's opening round in Miami or something?

Three days ago, it was about 75 degrees and sunny here at Turnberry, but that seems like years ago. The last two days have gotten windier and course conditions have toughened, but I don't think we've seen more blustery weather than we have right now for the final round.

Though it may appear benign at times, watch the flagsticks and the players' pantlegs. There's a very strong breeze coming through and we're expected to have some brief periods of heavy rain as well.

If these conditions favor anyone, it's Watson. First of all, it'll be tough for players to go super-low and catch him in this wind. Secondly, experience will be of utmost importance and he's obviously got more than anyone else in contention. Hell, he's probably got more than everyone else combined.


9:09 a.m. ET: When Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open on a torn ACL and multiple leg fractures 13 months ago, I wrote that it looked like a Hollywood fairytale so far-fetched that Happy Gilmore and Tin Cup seemed realistic by comparison.

At the time, there were some who called it the greatest story in major championship golf history. Considering they've been playing these things since 1860, that's quite an accomplishment.

Nobody figured it would be topped just more than a year later.

If Watson pulls through today -- he enters the final round as a 1-stroke leader over Mathew Goggin and Ross Fisher -- the sports talk shows will debate which is a greater feat, Tiger winning with serious injuries or Watson at the age of 59. They'll also argue where it ranks against that final Masters victory of Nicklaus, calling one of 'em better than the other.

And you know what? There's no incorrect answer. It will be an unbelievable, historic performance if Watson wins. But the fact is, there's no way to measure one against another. It's all a matter of personal opinion, so you can't go wrong.


9 a.m. ET: This is why we watch sports. This is why we're fans. This is why we hope and dream. Why we never give up. Why we root for the underdog, the story.

This is why you went to bed last night with your heart beating just a little bit faster, like that first time you fell in love as a teenager. It's why you woke up this morning and didn't roll out of bed, but bounced, eagerly awaiting the day's events. This is why you could have skipped that morning cup of coffee, already caffeinated by anticipation. This is why you've either turned off your phone so as not to be bothered or left it on in order to live the moment with family and friends.

This is why your memory is now working overdrive, images of Tom Watson's career flooding back. It's why you can't wait to rewind that old VHS tape of Jack Nicklaus' final round at the 1986 Masters and compare the historic relevance of each day. Why you hope your golfing buddy takes the opposing viewpoint, just so you can debate the topic at the 19th hole later on.

Forget about golf, though. This is why you've been racking your brain for 48 hours, trying to come up with the most memorable sports moments of your life. It's why you'll be watching a golf tournament and thinking about the Miracle on Ice. And why you absolutely, positively can't wait to see if today's final result trumps them all.

With a victory at the Open Championship today, Watson would rewrite so many record books that, well, they'll have to publish a new record book just to house 'em all. He would be the oldest major champion -- by 11 years -- at the age of 59. He would tie Harry Vardon for the all-time lead with his sixth Claret Jug. And he would be right at the top of your greatest memories of watching sports.

Old Tom tees off in exactly 20 minutes and I will be here throughout the entire round, updating the live blog as quickly as possible. As always, you can hit me at britishopenblog@gmail.com or Twitter account JasonSobel. Are we about to watch history in the making? I can't wait to find out ...

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.