Tom Watson’s last Australian stand?

They love Tom Watson in Scotland just as much as they love their own homegrown winners. He has conquered Troon, Turnberry and Carnoustie in Scotland on the way to five Open Championships and he all but conquered Sydney this week, definitely in the hearts of fans if not the scoreboard.

The scoreboard wasn’t bad either: untidy rounds of 78 in the 1st and 3rd rounds but the equal best score of the day in round 2: a four under 68, followed a 69 on Sunday, which was the best round of the day prior to the tempests that suspended play for four hours.

Tom Watson Tom Watson acknowledges the crowd for what may be his final tournament in Australia (Credit: Anthony Powter)

His ability to flight the ball through the wind and manage his game gave us an indication of his greatness and how he managed to almost pull off an incredible victory at Turnberry in 2009 for a record-tying sixth Open Championship.

“My body was in better shaped today,” he said after what could be his final round in Australia.

“The last shot was a nice shot with a two hybrid into the wind. Kids are hitting 4 irons, I’m hitting 2 hybrids. I can see the handwriting on the wall.”

Watson did not categorically close the door on a return either. He’s enjoyed his visit to Australia despite ill health for most of the week and is craving a return to see more of our wide, brown land.

“I had a good time. I got the opportunity to go to the Opera House last night to see Swan Lake. That’s a lovely spot, with the bridge there; it’s just a special place. Sydney is a great city, I enjoyed it.”

Will he be back?

“Who knows? I’ve really enjoyed being here in this country, seeing the outback, Sydney, being in Melbourne, there are a lot of things here. I’d like to go to Tasmania, I’ve been to New Zealand, I’d like to see the western part of Australia. There’s always a chance.”

Qualifier Matt Ballard had the honour of playing with Watson on Sunday and overcame waking with excitement at 3am to post his own lowest round of the tournament – a 71 – in great company.

The surreal experience Ballard enjoyed was shared by galleries all four days, five if you include the pro-am and the memories of a marvellous 3 iron for eagle into the wind on 16.

Australian fans have not seen a lot of Watson over the years and his last appearance in Sydney was in Kerry Packer’s Australian Skins Game in 1985 at The Australian alongside Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.

The galleries that followed Watson each day knew this could be their last opportunity to see him play, a legend of the game and one of only two living 5-time British Open champions along with our own Peter Thomson.

Before them was the guy who holed the ‘shot heard around the world’ when he chipped in on the 17th at Pebble Beach to win the 1982 US Open and who won out in the classic ‘Duel in the Sun’ at Turnberry to pip Jack Nicklaus at the 1977 Open.

Only five other men who have ever played the game have won more majors than he.

A gentleman of middle age called out ‘Thanks for the memories, Tom’ as he walked up the 17th hole of Sunday for the final time, perhaps the final time on Australian shores.

Jack Nicklaus played his final tournament at the 1998 Greg Norman Classic at age 58 at The Australian. At the time, we thought we might see him again but it was not to be.

If that was indeed Tom Watson’s last appearance on Australian shores, it was an absolute privilege to be there to see it.