Tom Watson always has been a favorite among fans at the British Open, and it showed again Friday.
Watson, a five-time Open champion, got a huge ovation as he walked toward the 18th green as he concluded his second round at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. And he should get two more greetings like that from the fans this weekend.
Watson clinched a chance to play the final two rounds when he made par on No. 18. That gave him a 1-over 73 for the second day in a row and a total of 2-over 146 for two rounds. He made the cut by 1 stroke
“I came over here with a purpose to play my best golf and play on the weekend,” Watson told reporters after his round. “Let’s see what happens on the weekend. See if the old guy can maybe get it rolling a little bit.”
Tiger Woods was in danger of missing the cut after a triple bogey on No. 17, but he had a birdie on the 18th hole and also finished at 2 over. The cut fell exactly at 2-over par, 14 shots off the pace set by Rory McIlroy, who shot 66 for the second straight day and opened a 4-shot lead on Dustin Johnson.
Watson, 64, was playing his 125th career round at the Open. He got the crowd behind him with a birdie at the first hole and made the turn in even-par 36.
Watson knew he likely would need to make up a shot after he made a bogey on No. 10, and he responded with a birdie on No. 14. He played solid golf the last four holes and barely missed a birdie putt on No. 18. Watson had just a tap-in for his fourth straight par, and he walked off with a big smile on his face.
“I hit some lousy shots in the middle of the round, made some stupid errors, and when I was 3 over I told myself I better play some golf,” Watson said. “And I did. I made every fairway coming in and made that birdie on the 14th. It was a pleasure playing with a little bit of heat on me to make the cut and doing so well, especially coming down the stretch. I enjoyed that.”
Watson doesn’t hit the ball as far as he used to, and he said the key to his success is being able to keep the ball in play in adverse conditions.
“It’s all about distance control,” Watson said. “Can you get the ball the right distance? Can you play the chess game? Move your ball to this position to get to that position. It’s not how far you drive the ball.”
Watson has dealt with back and hip pain recently, but Friday he often was walking well ahead of his younger playing partners.
“I’m doing the same thing as I did when I was 22 years old, although I can’t hit the ball very hard anymore,” Watson said.
Watson first set the record for the oldest player to make the cut in the British Open at age 61 in 2011. He extended that record in 2012 but missed the cut last year.
Sam Snead was the oldest player to make the cut at a major. He was 67 when he made the cut at the 1979 PGA Championship.
Watson impressed playing partner Jim Furyk, who could end up on the U.S. Ryder Cup team that Watson will be captain of this September at Gleneagles in Scotland.
“It was pretty special playing with Tom, and the reception he got,” said Furyk, who shot 71 and is at 5-under 139. “To watch him grind it out and make a birdie on the way in and make the cut was pretty cool. I was pulling for him pretty hard on 18. And he hit a lot of good shots down the stretch.”
Former University of Kansas golfer Gary Woodland also made the cut. He shot 3-under 69 Friday and was at even-par 144. Woodland had an eagle on the fifth hole and also had two birdies and a bogey during his round.