ST. ANDREWS -- As you likely know by now, Tom Watson played his final British Open round at St. Andrews on Friday, and in the midst of the farewell celebrations, one story stood out to me from his pre-tournament press conference.
Watson, it turns out, didn't always love links golf. In fact, the five-time British Open champion started out hating it. The story of how it finally won him over is a good one, and it's worth hearing, in his own words:
"In '79 I was on my pity pot thinking about Lytham St. Annes and I wasn't playing very well and I was whining, 'I don't like this type of golf, it's terrible golf and it doesn't reward a good shot and you have to guess too much, there's too much uncertainty.'
In '81 my friend Sandy Tatum asked me, 'Watson, let's go and play some links golf courses that you haven't played in the rotation.' One in particular was Royal Dornoch. So we started at Ballybunion, which we had just a wonderful time at Ballybunion, we played a bunch of holes there the first day, and then we ended up going to Prestwick and Troon, played Prestwick in the morning, had what you'd say was a rather long and lengthy and very unsobering lunch, then proceeded to go over to Troon, and the next day we headed up to Dornoch and played Dornoch, and in the morning it was beautiful, no wind.
We go in there, Donald Grant was the historian at Dornoch and he had a reception for us after we played, Sandy and me, and we had a few pints and we ended up -- looked outside, and it had started to gray in the last few holes, and the wind was blowing and the rain was coming down sideways. And I look at Tatum, and I said, 'Tatum, what do you think?' He said, 'I'll organize the caddies.' So he organized two caddies, our original caddies, and we went out and we played another 18 holes in the wind and the rain. That's when I fell in love with links golf.
That was quite a struggle, struggle, struggle. You occasionally hit the shot that really makes you proud, but it's always a struggle. That's the element."