Watson encouraged by old rival

7/21/2009 - Golf Tom Watson Jack Nicklaus + more

SUNNINGDALE, England -- British Open
runner-up Tom Watson thanked his "great friend" and former rival
Jack Nicklaus for calling him after Watson's agonizing finish Sunday in his
attempt to become golf's oldest major champion.

Nicklaus and Watson famously battled out the 1977 British
Open at Turnberry, which Watson won in a
tournament that became known as the "Duel in the Sun."

"I had a nice conversation with Jack and he said: 'You
couldn't have played the 18th hole any better. It just wasn't
there,' " Watson said Tuesday at Sunningdale Golf
Club outside London, where he is competing this week in the
Senior British Open.

Watson, 59, held a one-stroke lead going into the 72nd hole,
but after a solid drive, he hit his approach through
the green and took three to get down for a bogey-5, forcing a
playoff in which he lost to Stewart Cink.

"Jack also said: 'You played the right shot with the
putter.' That soothed me a little bit. Great friend," said
Watson, who also missed out on equaling Harry Vardon's record of six
British Open victories.

Nicklaus, 69, the "Golden Bear" who won
a record 18 major titles between 1962 and 1986, was so intrigued
by the action that he watched the entire last round from his
Florida home.

"Jack told me: 'Watson, that's the first time I ever sat
down and watched all 18 holes of any golf tournament, ANY golf
tournament,' " a smiling Watson said.

Nicklaus wrote on his official Web site on
Saturday that he had watched most of the front nine and all of
the back nine during the third round, finding time to play some
tennis in between.

Watson won five British Opens, two Masters and one
U.S. Open between 1975 and 1983, leaving the PGA
championship as the only major out of his grasp.