No American means more to the appreciative British Open crowds than Tom Watson. That might change when the US has an 8-3 lead on Europe at the Ryder Cup later this year, but for now, and for the entirety of his career, it has held true.
Which is why Watson got so emotional on Monday talking about how much it meant to him that he was granted a special exemption to play the 2015 British Open to (likely) end his career at the tournament.
"St. Andrews is a very special place. People say it may not be the end but let's face it, it is probably going to be the end of my Open career," Watson said. "It means a great deal. I just hope I can hold back enough of the tears to look presentable."
He also said he wants to play his final round there with none other than Jack Nicklaus because of how inspired he was by Nicklaus' final British Open round at St. Andrews in 2005 when Tiger Woods won.
"I had real strong feelings about Jack Nicklaus in his final round in the Open at St Andrews," said Watson. "I was crying like a baby from the tee to the green on 18.
"Jack's the greatest player in the game, he means a great deal to me, he was the man I wanted to beat."
"Get Jack out of retirement," Watson said. "I'd like to play with him for my last go round in the Open Championship -- that would be fun."
Oh yes it would, though it's likely not going to happen.
Still, it's cool for somebody like me who grew up in the Tiger-Phil-Vijay era to have a chance to look back on all these golfers my parents and grandparents loved. There's also something quite special about Tom Watson at the British Open.