Watch: Last night, we said goodbye to a legend. Thanks for the memories, Tom. https://t.co/beQWoeZ0Dw— The Open (@TheOpen) July 18, 2015
Tom Watson's moment in the sun in his final British Open was shrouded in gloom. The weather-delayed second round at St. Andrews was suspended due to darkness before the five-time Open champion could finish up on Friday.
"This is a crying shame, it really is," ESPN's Mike Tirico said as R&A officials got ready to call it. "The romantic in us wanted Tom Watson in the sunlight to walk over the Swilcan Bridge and have the place full and the town packed. Instead it will only be a few."
So much for those hearty Scottish golf fans. Virtually no one in grandstands at 18. Of course, it's brutally cold. Shame for Tom Watson tho— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 17, 2015
Amid confusion about whether Watson would get through his 18 holes before the horn blew -- signaling an end to play for the day -- spectators re-lined the 18th fairway as the American unleashed his last drive and made his way over the Swilcan Bridge.
Despite the gloaming, what was not dampened was Watson’s love affair with Scotland. This was on full display as the five-time British Open winner made his sentimental final tour of St. Andrews as an Open Championship contender.
"The crowds are very nice, very appreciative, and I'm appreciative back. I respect what they're doing for me," said Watson, playing this week on an invitation from the R&A after an opening-round 4-over 76. "You know, you give respect to people who give you respect. That's what I've done. That's what I do."
He got a standing ovation from the first tee all the way through his final loop.
A large crowd also came out on the patio at the Old Course hotel, which lines the most famous par-4 in golf, the Road Hole 17th.
Several R&A officials and some of his competitors came out of the clubhouse to surround the green for his final putt at the Championship he became synonymous with. Matt Kuchar, who finished hours ahead of Watson, was there to greet him along with players from both sides of the pond. Billy Horschel tweeted his viewpoint.
Lots of golf reporters crying. It's been a long day.— Paul Mahoney (@paulmahoneygolf) July 17, 2015
Watson appeared in his last Open Championship 40 years after his first British win, at Carnoustie in 1975. His next triumph came over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977 in the fabled "Duel in the Sun." He won three more times, in 1980, 1982 and 1983.
Despite the Open’s 60-year-old age limit -- and thanks to an exemption the R&A added after Watson nearly won the 2009 tournament -- a top-10 finish this week would have earned starts at the next five years for the 65-year-old winner of eight majors overall. He made it fairly clear before this year’s edition that he was pretty much done.
"There are some tools missing now, especially distance," he said on Wednesday. "I need everything to compete against these kids, everything."
Watson was disappointed not to make it to the weekend but said he and the many friends and family members in Fife for his Open finale would make the best of it.
"We're going to have a big party tomorrow night and have a good time tomorrow night," Watson said ahead of his last emotional turn at St. Andrews.