Time and tide wait for no man. Not even for a golfing great like Tom Watson. Today at Royal Lytham, the 69-year-old will play his last ever round in The Senior Open as one of the finest exponents of the links game brings the curtain down on his competitive career on this side of the Atlantic.

The number of waves Watson doles out during the course of this emotional swansong on the Fylde coast will probably leave the sea’s ebb and flow struggling to keep up.

While Paul Broadhurst took over as the frontrunner with a 67 for a five-under aggregate, Watson, who sits on a six-over tally, was preparing for his final meander.

From the moment he won the 1975 Open on his debut in the championship at Carnoustie, Watson and links golf would develop a passionate, fulfilling and enduring relationship. All good things must come to an end, though.

The Kansas veteran will still make occasional appearances on the Champions Tour in the US but Watson, who won five Opens and three Senior Opens on these shores during a shimmering career, knows its time to call it a day. There are other things away for the golf course, meanwhile, that are stirring the competitive instincts of this redoubtable, decorated and celebrated competitor.

HeraldScotland:

“We talk about people riding off into the sunset, well in my case I’m going to be doing so literally, on the back of a horse,” he said of his new passion for a sport called cutting, a form of equestrianism with an American twist.

“This decision [to step away] has been welling up for a while. And it just made sense that this is the time to do it. And I’m good with it. My wife’s good with it. And honestly I called Jack [Nicklaus] and, I said, ‘Jack, what made you hang them up?’

“He said, ‘probably because I couldn’t play anymore.” And I’ve been kind of spinning my wheels out here. I haven’t really been able to compete the way I would really want to.

“I played with Darren Clarke and [Miguel Angel] Jimenez the first two rounds here [at The Senior Open], and I’m three clubs shorter than Darren and two clubs shorter than Jimenez.

“And when I was one club shorter, I felt like maybe I still could compete. But when you get that short, the realisation is there that you really can’t compete. It’s not to say that I don’t love the competition. I still love the competition.

“So this is a sensible assessment of the current state of my game. I just don’t have enough tools in my toolbox anymore, so this is it regarding the Senior Open and the US Senior Open.”

At the head of the field, Broadhurst posted a fine three-under card in the grisly conditions to take a one-shot lead into the closing round.

The 2016 Senior Open champion started the day four shots off the lead but recovered from an early bogey with four birdies to get to five-under and lead the way from American Woody Austin.

“I have great memories of playing here and I won the Lytham Trophy as an amateur and I won the Silver Medal in The Open the same year,” said the Midlander of his fondness for this part of the golfing world.

“It was one of my better rounds in these conditions. I’m not a great lover of the rain.

“I don’t mind playing in wind but when there’s a bit of a combination, the rain as well, I’ve not had too many great rounds in the rain, so that’s right up there today.”

On the home front, Colin Montgomerie leaked two shots on Lytham’s notoriously robust closing stretch in a three-over 73 for a one-over total and was joined on that mark by the 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, who had a 72.

The Scots duo share 17th place with one round to go.