In fact, the ball looked for a moment as if it would roll into the cup for a double eagle. Instead it stopped three feet short, and Watson dropped the putt for the eagle. From there to the clubhouse, Watson made only one minor mistake. That was when his string of comfortable pars was broken by a bogey at the par-4 15th. Here, he hit a six-iron from the light rough through the green, chipped back indifferently and then two-putted. Elsewhere, he stroked birdie putts of medium range to within inches of the cups. His wasn't so much a charge to victory as it was a businesslike journey designed to avoid all possible calamities while waiting for others, like your Nicky Prices, to suffer them.
Sunday marked Watson's seventh win in a major—the four British Opens, the Masters twice, last month's U.S. Open—and that puts him on a new plateau of greatness. Only six immortals have won more than seven: Nicklaus (19), Bobby Jones (13), Walter Hagen (11), Ben Hogan and Gary Player (9) and Palmer (8). Watson's seven ties him with Harry Vardon, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. He also became only the fifth player to win both the British and U.S. Opens in the same year.
It was, however, one of the few victories that has truly surprised Watson. "I played better from tee to green than I did at Pebble," he said, "but I never expected to win, because I didn't putt all that great. When I came off 18, I thought I'd lost. It's a funny feeling to win this way, because I wasn't prepared for it. I've never had one given to me."
Which is what made it distinctly different from Watson's other Opens. At Carnoustie he had to beat the Australian Jack Newton in a playoff. At Turnberry he had his magnificent one-on-one, 36-hole battle with Nicklaus, surviving by the thread of a single shot. And at Muirfield he had a stroll on the moors, gliding home by four. Now the gift of Troon.
The real loser at Troon, however, wasn't Price, but Clampett, a slightly mysterious but likable lad with perhaps the most potential of any young player on the American tour. Clampett's golf swing is impressive even when his shots go wrong, and hardly any of them did in the first two rounds, when his opening 67 and following 66 almost blew everybody into the Firth.
Clampett is the most studious of golfers. He likes to think about the game in terms of physics, a bent that belies his quiet sense of humor and a hairdo that earned him the nickname of Harpo on the U.S. tour. He's a Northern California kid who sees himself as more of a mechanical golfer than an artistic one. He has a perfect grip and that beautiful swing, and his fellow pros consider him the "best aimer" since Nicklaus. He has been close to winning many times in his two years on the tour—he had four seconds in 1981—and it has long been thought that he might well become the golfer of the late '80s.
All this was before his collapse at Troon, which began on the 42nd hole, the par-5 6th on the third round. Clampett was 12 under par to that point and leading by seven shots. He had worn knickers, posed for thousands of photographs with his girl friend, Ann Mebane, and spoken of his contract with the Bell System Yellow Pages, which is why his golf bag is black and bright yellow and why he often dresses like a bumblebee in the States.
But Clampett's magic and his clear-thinking processes deserted him on that 42nd hole. He played unwisely out of two bunkers and staggered through to a triple-bogey 8. Afterward, it was as if he had been run over by a truck. Mentally, he never recovered—the 78 and 77 were proof of that. The big question Troon posed is how Clampett will handle his debacle there, not how many more majors Watson will collect. A brilliant career may be lying back where the Firth washes up against the sand hills.
"I feel sorry for Bobby," Watson said Sunday evening. "He may be crying right now, but I've cried before, and he'll learn to be tough."
Like Tom Watson did, maybe.