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Watson casts his mind both back and forward to St Andrews

The first day of Open Championship week and there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

om Watson tees off during a practice round at Royal Liverpool for what might be his penultimate Open. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
om Watson tees off during a practice round at Royal Liverpool for what might be his penultimate Open. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Any more of these tear-jerking tales and there will be enough excess water to create a tidal surge in the Wirral.

Tom Watson is here at Hoylake for yet another Open adventure but it is his 40th anniversary appearance at St Andrews in 2015 - all being well, of course - that is being eagerly anticipated.

Granted a special exemption by those sentimental softies at the Royal & Ancient - yes, they do have hearts - so he can extend his Open career by a further year and celebrate four glorious decades since he won his first Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 1975, Watson is already peering ahead.

An Open swansong on the Swilcan Bridge? They'd better start ordering the hankies now in the Auld Grey Toon.

This time next July it will be a decade since Jack Nicklaus made that nostalgic march down the 18th of the Old Course as he took his final bow in the game's greatest championship in 2005. Watson was by his side then and was almost overcome by the emotion of the occasion.

"I started bawling and I was crying like a baby from tee to green," recalled Watson, as his thoughts turned back to Nicklaus' farewell in Fife. "Here was the greatest player in the game finishing his career, and he meant a great deal to me. He was the man I wanted to beat. But more importantly we became friends and confidants, and it was a special time, a very special time.

"Jack told me on that last hole, 'now, you've got to concentrate on this putt, so stop crying, you've got to make the cut here'. And I did. It was just a special moment to be a part of that, to be a part of that last walk up the 18th hole, and Jack did what he normally did, he birdied it. He couldn't have scripted it any better.

"I've never cried on the golf course for myself. I'm either pissed off or happy. But I did have a lot of emotion with Jack and Arnie [Palmer]. Those are matinee idols that I grew up wanting to be like or wanting to pretend I was Arnie beating Jack.

"St. Andrews is a very special place and we've had wonderful experiences there, my friends and family, and to end my Open career there? Well.

"People say it may not be the end, but let's face it, it's probably going to be for my Open career. I just hope I can hold back the tears long enough to look presentable."

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