Tom Watson tee's off on the 1st
An “embarrassed’’ Tom Watson faces a fight to make the cut in what will be his final appearance at an Emirates Australian Open after he began with a disappointing 78 at The Lakes today.
The 63-year-old American legend’s first tee ball of the day bounced hard left off a bank and disappeared into the water hazard and it was a portent of things to come. He was up and down all day, making four birdies but having a few issues with the nuances of the course. A bogey at the last left him six-over-par.
“You’d expect after making four birdies, you wouldn’t shoot 78,’’ he said. “I hit a lot of stray shots. I was in the ice plant. I was in the water. I thought I hit a good drive at the first and it bounced in the water. I was really surprised on that. Knowing the golf course is paramount and I didn’t know that shot there.’’
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Golf Australia and the PGA Tour put Watson in the same group as rookie professional Jake Higginbottom, the New South Welshman who won the New Zealand Open as an amateur just a few weeks ago before turning professional. Higginbottom is just 19 and one of the brightest prospects in the nation; he carded a 74.
“Well, he could darn near be my grandson, being 63 years old. I was impressed. He played pretty solid.’’
Higginbottom was disappointed with his round, but happy to have the experience of playing alongside an eight-time major championship winner. “It was enjoyable,’’ he said. “Obviously I didn’t play very well, but that’s okay.
“The first few holes I was a bit nervous but I settled down. He’s a great bloke, very friendly. It was good to play with him.’’
Watson, who came to Sydney with a bad cold, wore a wind vest all afternoon despite the warmish temperatures, but said he felt better. His golf game was another matter. “I’m embarrassed about the way I played. It’s not up to my standards. Tomorrow, I feel I have the golf swing in me to hit a lot of quality shots. Let’s see how it goes. I’m putting pretty well, making some putts.’’
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Some of the favourites went sideways and backwards today as the $1.2 million tournament began. Australia’s top-ranked player Adam Scott scratched his way around to card a 72 with three birdies (all on par fives) and three bogeys, although he is not out of the race.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2011 champion, had two double bogeys in his 74 and probably cannot win.
Chinese amateur Tianlang Guan, 14, had a forgettable day. Guan, who is among the invitees to next year’s Masters at Augusta National, carded an 82. Another gun Chinese amateur Andy Zhang, 14, carded a 76.