Planet Golf — 21 July 2017 by GW staff and news services
O’Meara says goodbye to The Open

SOUTHPORT, England – In 1998, Mark O’Meara walked toward the 18th green at Royal Birkdale in triumph that Sunday in mid-July, about to win his second major of the year by defeating Canadian Brian Watts in a four-hole playoff.

On Friday, O’Meara walked toward the 18th again, the last time in his Open Championship career. He’s made 31 starts in this event, and his win 19 years ago helped secure his spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He soaked in the cheers, determined to enjoy every moment as he said goodbye to; the tournament he loves the most.

“I felt the warmth of the crowd, obviously, coming up the 18th hole,” O’Meara said. “I’m not Tom Watson. I’m not Jack Nicklaus. I’m not Arnold Palmer. I’m just a guy who in ’98 was lucky to win the championship and hoist the Claret Jug and be proclaimed Champion Golf of the Year.”

At age 60, O’Meara’s eligibility in this event had expired. He could have extended it another five years had he finished inside the top 10 this week. But an opening 11-over 81 – that included a quadruple bogey on the opening hole when his right hand slipped off the club – took him out of contention.

Determined to play better in his final Open round, O’Meara succeeded in grand style. He shot an even-par 70, a very respectable score on a day of high winds and tough conditions.

“I just wanted to play respectably,” O’Meara said. “I didn’t really have a set score. Obviously I knew that after four or five holes yesterday that the cut was going to be kind of out of the equation. But today to hang in there and battle in there and make some good pars and then a few birdies, you know, I just — I hit some better shots today, I really did.

“So did I hit it great? No. But if I had hit it really good, I would be playing on the weekend.”

O’Meara’s first Open start came in 1981 at Royal St. George’s. He shot 15 over for four rounds, finishing tied for 47th. But his most memorable moment came early in the week when he played a practice round with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros. On the first tee, they decided to put a wager on the match. The 24-year-old O’Meara was nervous.

“I was like, I hope I don’t lose too much. I don’t have that much money,” O’Meara recalled. “But I think Jack and I actually won that day.”

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