Turnberry, Scotland: Tom Watson is ready to rip up the record books after defying his 59 years to tie the lead in the British Open on Friday while world number one Tiger Woods missed the second-round cut.
Veteran Watson regained the putting touch that won eight majors in his prime and danced a jig of delight after rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt for a level-par 70 to join fellow American Steve Marino (68) on 135, five under par.
On a day when 25-mph (40-kph) winds and intermittent rain made scoring tough, Woods missed the cut in a major championship for only the second time as a professional as he slumped to a 74 for 145, five over.
Mark Calcavecchia (69) struck another blow for the over-40s to take third spot on 136, one ahead of Briton Ross Fisher (68), South African Retief Goosen (70), Miguel Angel Jimenez (73) of Spain, Japan's Kenichi Kuboya (72) and Vijay Singh (70) of Fiji.
It was Watson, though, who proved the darling of the crowds at the picturesque coastal venue where he eclipsed Jack Nicklaus in the famous 1977 'Duel in the Sun'.
"I am still a little emotional," Watson told reporters. "It is as if the spirits are on my side."
Asked if he was beginning to think a sixth British Open victory was a realistic prospect, he replied: "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could win."
Many pundits doubted the American could reproduce the fireworks he lit in a stunning 65 on Thursday but how he proved them wrong.
Attempting to beat the record of compatriot Julius Boros who was 48 when he won the 1968 U.S. PGA Championship, Watson made his intentions clear from the start, breaking into a trademark grin after holing a 30-footer to birdie the first.
He briefly went off the boil with a run of five bogeys in six holes but the old wizard then started to wave his putter like a magic wand, sinking a 20-footer for his third birdie of the day at the 11th before saving his best for last.
He rolled in a huge 50-footer for another birdie on 16 and, after receiving his second standing ovation in successive days on the 18th fairway, proceeded to send another monster putt straight into the cup for a closing birdie.
Watson said playing partner Sergio Garcia had helped to restore the spring in his step midway through the round.
"It was nice of Sergio to give me a pep talk on the eighth hole. He said: 'Come on old man'," the veteran added.
"He was making a joke of it but I said: 'Well, I feel like an old man'. I played two really good shots at the eighth and then I played two good shots at the ninth, made a putt and turned my round around."
At the other end of the age and experience scale, the 29-year-old Marino made a big impression on his British Open debut and only his fourth appearance in a major.
The world number 77 veered from the outrageously good to the indifferent as he swapped three birdies for three bogeys on the front nine.
He holed a 116-yard approach shot with a sand wedge at the third, sank a 30-foot putt for another birdie at the fifth and then saw his bunker shot go straight into the cup for a two at the par-three sixth.
On the inward half Marino dropped a stroke at the 10th before following a birdie at the 14th with an eagle three at the 17th where he sank a curling 20-foot putt.
"It was one of the hardest courses I've ever played today," said Marino. "It was like a totally different course and played so difficult out there with the wind early and the rain."
Marino, given a place in the field when Japan's Shingo Katayama dropped out with a back problem on Sunday, had not played on a links course until this week.
For Woods, it was a bitter pill to swallow after missing his first cut in a major since he failed to qualify for the weekend at the 2006 U.S. Open.
"I was one under for the day after seven holes and right there in the championship and then had a few tough holes in a row and couldn't get it back," he said.
"I birdied two of the last four (but) you can't make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut but also try and win a championship."
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