John Huggan talks to Tom Watson about the Open, Scotland and how he loves the more respectful youth of Scotland.
Indeed, it wasn't until 1981 – by which time he had won three Opens in Scotland – that Watson, finally saw the light, courtesy of his close friend, Sandy Tatum, a former president of the United States Golf Association.
"Although I'm a Yank and always will be, I clearly love being in Scotland," says Watson. "And I clearly love links golf. And I love playing links golf with people who love it. It was Sandy who first got me feeling that way, though. Just before the Open at Sandwich in '81 I played Ballybunion in Ireland (where he was club captain in 2000] for the first time. Then we went to Prestwick, Troon and up to Royal Dornoch. Playing those courses was the beginning of me understanding what it was all about. I wasn't even playing particularly well at that time, but it all gave me a new appreciation. Seeing links golf through Sandy's eyes was a learning experience for me. To that extent, I will always be grateful to him."
That, however, is just about as close as Watson gets to grumpiness when in these parts. The rest of his time here is spent wallowing in something not far removed from utter contentment. This is a man who, in so many ways, fits right into our environment. Ask him what he enjoys most about Scotland and a lengthy list spills haphazardly from his lips.
"I like the nature of the people," he says. "I like the way golf is played. I haven't driven for a few years, but I feel comfortable on the left side. And yes, I've queued for fish and chips. I love haggis, too. But grouse is a different story! I play fast; the Scots play fast. 'Let's get on with it.' There's no pretence. That's what I love most about the game over here. 'Let's go play.'"