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July 26, 2009

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EXCERPT | July 25, 1983

Tom Terrific

A supreme shot maker saves his best for last

Tom Watson hadn't won in a year, since the previous British Open, but he was in top form at Royal Birkdale, as Dan Jenkins reported.

Tom Watson keeps thinking up different ways to win the British Open. Last Sunday, on the rowdy Lancashire coast of England, he did it for the fifth time by waiting until almost the last minute and then playing what may have been the single best hole of his trophy-littered life. At that juncture Watson faced Royal Birkdale's toughest hole, the 18th, a 473-yard par-4 that looked as if it stretched from a towering sandhill to the Entebbe air terminal. Near that faraway green Hale Irwin, who had whiffed a two-inch putt the day before, was waiting with Andy Bean; the two of them were resting their hopes for an 18-hole Monday playoff on Watson stumbling to a bogey right here. But, ho-hum, this was the British Open, the championship that simply brings out the best in Watson. The only thing he was going to whiff was a pork pie, maybe.

Watson is still the sport's premier shot maker, and when he had to, he proved it. He smashed a 260-yard drive that literally split the heart of the fairway. He had 213 yards to the stadium-like green, grandstands to the sides, funny white clubhouse behind, and that's when he struck what he described as "the best two-iron of my life." The ball ate up the flag all the way and came to rest only 15 feet from the cup. A blind man could have two-putted for the victory, and Watson coolly did just that, knowing he had put them all away with that exemplary drive and perfect two-iron.

Watson's win at Royal Birkdale was his eighth and last major. His five British Open titles are one shy of the record held by Harry Vardon.

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PHOTOPhotograph by GRAHAM FINLAYSONOUT OF THE CROWD Eight players held or shared the lead on Sunday before Watson finally emerged victorious. PHOTOTONY TRIOLO (SPITTER) PHOTOTONY DUFFY (COE) PHOTOYANN GUICHAOUA/AGENCE VANDYSTADT (LEMOND) PHOTOANDREW HANCOCK (FITZGERALD) PHOTODAVID BERGMAN (OBAMA) PHOTOMICHAEL ZAGARIS (HOLLIDAY) PHOTOGREG CHOAT (LESNAR) PHOTOROBERT BECK (WATSON) PHOTO© CHAZ NIELL/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMA PRESS (BECKHAM) PHOTOANDREW REDINGTON/ALLSPORT/GETTY IMAGES (CLINTON) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)