Bill Elliott: a fitting farewell

Bill Elliott discusses Tom Watson's Open send-off

Tom Watson Open farewell
Tom Watson has played his final round at The Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bill Elliott discusses Tom Watson's Open send-off and asks if Rory McIlroy has been missed this week

Is anyone now missing the mercurial presence of the man who should be defending this glittering title?

I mean no offence. Rory McIlroy's presence here in St Andrews would have added significantly to the mix. Certainly the anticipation of a possible duel between him and Jordan Spieth across the Old Course encouraged some salivation.

But really since play began on Thursday morning the wee man has not been missed. Not really.

It just shows how packed the current leading pack is these days and indeed how The Open is bigger than any individual player. Plus no-one has yet assumed the celebrity mantle of Tiger Woods who was most definitely missed when injury ruled him out of the 2008 and 2011 Opens.

I doubt we will ever see another golfer like Woods whose ability to entrance many and probably irritate an equal number meant the public interest in him moved from sports pages to front pages and back again. Even his current plight and his stubborn battle to regain some momentum as a player is of deep interest and only just behind the 'can Jordan Spieth pull off the impossible' narrative. Just saying

Talking off narratives, this Open has now lost its. This happens when weather interrupts and players have rounds to complete. It means there is no known leader and that any allusion to one has to have more caveats attached than the average legal codicil. Until we, hopefully, get back on track with the final round sometime tomorrow this Championship is even more confused than I was last night after attending an Eden Mill gin reception.

Star of the gin show was their limited edition Open gin that has been infused with hickory chips. To my surprise this worked wonderfully well but my suggestion that they come up with a whisky/bird flu combo was scathingly ignored.

The reason I left this reception early was to walk 20 yards across the road to witness Tom Watson's final tilt at this St Andrews windmill.

It was almost dark, what the Scots call in the gloaming, that brief period as daylight disappears and night creeps over us but this only added to the scene that was more dramatically moving than any other final exits I have witnessed over the years.

My fear was that only a few hardy souls would hang around as Tom wandered up the 18th just before ten o'clock. I needn't have worried. Thousands stayed to say goodbye. Full marks to them and big applause too for his playing partners yesterday, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker.

Tom offered them the chance to finish on the 17th tee as the gloom crept over everyone but, to their eternal credit, they declined even though both were trying to make the cut and so the American was able to enjoy his last, long goodbye. Now he will be missed.

Nick Bonfield
Features Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, writing, commissioning and coordinating all features across print and online. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x