- Associated Press - Saturday, July 16, 2011

SANDWICH, ENGLAND (AP) - Amid the 30 mph winds and horizontal rainstorms that wreaked havoc at Royal St. George’s on Saturday, one man with nearly 40 years of links experience stood tall.

Playing with a smile that never left his face, Tom Watson reveled in the kind of fierce weather conditions that brought many of the early starters to their knees in a wet and wild third round at the British Open.

Watson’s 2-over 72 wasn’t the lowest score of the day, but it may have been the most impressive.

“You know, if we had weather like we had this morning the entire tournament, I don’t know who’s going to beat him,” Phil Mickelson said.

“He played in the worst of it, and I think he shot about as well as anybody did.”

Jason Day said Saturday had been his toughest day in golf. Edoardo Molinari described the conditions as “a joke.”

Watson merely called them “bothersome.”

“The challenge of dealing with conditions on a course like this is, it’s fun,” said the 61-year-old American.

“I kind of liked that forecast yesterday, when it said it was going to get nasty out there. It worked out well for me today.”

While many players struggled in the gusts, Watson stayed solid, especially on the greens where he needed just 29 putts.

Parring the first six holes, the five-time Open champion birdied the par-5 No. 7, delighting the huge galleries that stayed to cheer him on.

He made par with a 30-footer on No. 8 and dropped his first shot on No. 11. Three more bogeys followed, but that didn’t get him down.

“I’ll remember this day. It was a very good day out there, especially with that putter,” Watson said.

Never losing the determination that helped him win eight majors, Watson used his vast array of shots to combat the wind, often from the rough of the 10 fairways he missed off the tee.

Hitting only nine greens in regulation, he used his scrambling instincts well, too, helping him to one-putt eight times.

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