Jason Dasey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 July, 2010, 12:00am

Making a mark with his remarkable actions as well as his carefully chosen words, Tom Watson will cross paths with Tiger Woods next week at St Andrews ahead of his first British Open as a 60-year-old.

They will take part in Wednesday's Open Champions Challenge, a curtain-raiser to the 150th anniversary tournament on the Old Course. But organisers will avoid what might have been an awkward reunion by selecting Watson and Woods in different teams for the competition that features 28 former winners.

With so many of Woods' peers choosing to stay silent, Watson has been critical of the troubled world No 1 following his return to the PGA Tour after a self-imposed break because of personal issues, but only on golfing grounds. He implored him to 'show some humility' to the game and to 'clean up his act'.

'I feel that he has not carried the same stature as other great players like Jack [Nicklaus], Arnold [Palmer], Byron Nelson, the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course,' he said earlier this year.

He may hail from a different generation to Woods, but the five-time Open champion is anything but an out-of-touch old 'fogey'. Twelve months after going so close to becoming golf's oldest major winner as he ran a close second to Stewart Cink following a play-off at Turnberry, Watson remains one of the sport's hottest properties.

After shooting an opening-round 67 to lie a shot off the lead at the Masters in April, Watson finished in a tie for 18th place to earn a place in history as only the second player after Sam Snead to register top-20 major finishes in five different decades. And last month at the scene of his memorable 1982 triumph, Watson made the cut at the US Open on the brutal Pebble Beach layout before finishing in a creditable joint 29th spot.

And just as he did 28 years ago when his miracle chip-in birdie at the 17th helped him overhaul Nicklaus, Watson threw his ball into the nearby Pacific Ocean. With Pebble Beach not scheduled to host the tournament again until 2019, Watson knows 2010 will probably mark his last US Open on the Californian course.

Watson didn't linger long on home soil after the second major of the year. Instead, he took an early flight to London where he's been promoting his new instructional DVD Lessons of a Lifetime. It's dedicated to his former caddy, Bruce Edwards, who died in 2004 at the age of 49 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A portion of the DVD profits will go to research into the ailment.

'I wanted to be filmed when I can still swing the golf club reasonably well and I wanted to produce my knowledge of the golf swing for posterity, especially for my son,' Watson said. 'The aim of this project is simply to give golfers a fundamental understanding of what comprises a sound golf swing.'

It may come as a surprise that Watson says he believes his technique was flawed until more than a decade after winning his eighth and final major: the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale where he beat Andy Bean and Hale Irwin by one stroke.

'I didn't learn how to swing the golf club correctly until 1994,' Watson admits. 'Then after more than 15 years of proving to myself that indeed I had learned the proper swing was I satisfied that my understanding was correct and that golfers would truly benefit by learning from my method.'

And Watson certainly seems to be playing better than ever. Since his second place at last year's British Open, he's won twice since turning 60, both in Hawaii - on the Champions Tour and in the Wendy's Champions Skins Game with Nicklaus.

But it was his inspirational performance last year at Turnberry where he became the oldest man to lead during the final round of a major that still gets wide-eyed strangers stopping him. He set the tone for a remarkable tournament by opening with a five-under-par 65.

'One of the common threads was the age factor and how people said they were inspired not to give up on their life's pursuits because of their so-called advanced age,' Watson said. 'Playing well at age 60 means that the human body can still be actively competitive in golf later than many people expect.'

Watson is hoping for another good showing next week but doesn't have a great record at St Andrews: his tie for second in 1984 is his only top-10 finish in six appearances at the spiritual home of the sport.

The following week he will remain in Scotland for the Senior British Open at Carnoustie, to continue a love affair with golf that began soon after beginning school in the Midwest state of Missouri.

'From when I was six years old to today, I still get a thrill out of producing a shot that is perfect ... the perfect flight with the perfect result. If I produce more than one perfect shot in a round of golf then I feel I am playing well.'