HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods was pleased because he could beat the clock, if not many golfers in the British Open field. Tom Watson was unhappy because he couldn't quite beat the scorecard.

Even at age 64, the oldest man ever to make the cut, Watson beat 38-year-old Woods, a fellow Stanford alum.

Woods shot a 3-over 75 for a 6-over 294 total at Royal Liverpool. But he figured he got a jump on the original thinking of when he could return to golf after spinal surgery March 31.

"The fact I was able to play a few weeks ahead of time," Woods said after his first major of the year, "and am only getting stronger and faster, is great."

Watson had a 4-under 68, but his total of 289 was 1 over par.

"It would have been nice to shoot 67 and get to even par," he said, "but it was fun to finish with a birdie the way I did," Watson said.

Woods' four rounds included two triple-bogeys and three double-bogeys.

"I was expecting it," he said when someone asked if the mistakes were attributable to rust, Woods having played only 36 holes before the Open. "I just thought that -- I know how to play links golf, I know how to grind it. ... Unfortunately, I made too many mistakes. I was down three months. So now I'm just starting to come back."

Watson is the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, the event to be played at Gleneagles, Scotland, at the end of September. He gets three wild-card picks to add to nine qualifiers. One might be Woods.


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"If Tiger's playing well, and in good health," Watson said, "I'll pick him. But he needs to get into the mix. If Tiger and Phil (Mickelson) don't make it in the mix, then I've got some real thinking to do."

Woods' total matched his highest score in an Open. Only three players had a worse score, including U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer. Woods wound up 23 shots behind winner Rory McIlroy, by six shots his worst deficit ever in a major.

Woods still has two tournaments left before the end of Ryder Cup qualifying at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. He's No. 72 in the standings.

  • Ten years ago, McIlroy's father, Gerry, and three friends bet 400 pounds that Rory, then only 15, would win the Open before he turned 26 -- at 500-to-1 odds. The payoff will be 200,000 pounds (about $340,000 American). "The other three he did that with are going to be very happy. He never reminded me. I knew that he'd done it," said Rory McIlroy, who finished at 17-under 271 and won by two shots over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.

  • Defending champion Phil Mickelson finished on a high note with a 4-under 68 for a 5-under 283 total.

    The Associated Press contributed to the report.