Can old Tom Watson, 59, really win the British Open?

KANSAS CITY — Stan Thirsk recalls a much younger Tom Watson, as he launched his professional golf career, telling him all those years ago how he wanted to be the best player in the world.

Watson is almost 60 years old now, 26 years removed from winning his eighth major championship and somehow threatening to win his ninth this weekend at the British Open.

Thirsk, his 81-year-old former golf instructor from The Kansas City Country Club, is watching from afar this weekend — like much of Kansas City — but watching closely. He says Watson is swinging as well as he ever has. And that determination …

“That hasn’t changed,” Thirsk said Saturday afternoon after Watson seized sole possession of first place at the British Open. “That’s been there all along — his heart, his desire. That hasn’t let up one bit. Strong as ever.”

So here he is. Leading by 1 stroke through three rounds at the British Open. A legend defying the odds at the age of 59 — more than a decade older than any winner of a major championship.

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