Tiger Woods gets feet wet in early return, Tom Watson considers Ryder Cup options

Tiger Woods plays out of the rough on Tiger Woods plays out of the rough on the 12th hole during the final round of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club in Hoylake, England, on Sunday July 20, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Jon Super

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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 alumnus.

Woods shot a final-round 3-over-par 75 for a 6-over total of 294. 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. You feel lighter. You don't feel like you have a burden you're taking with you [while getting] ready for the next tournament."

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That's the Senior British Open for him.

It was 2009 when, at age 59, at the Open at Turnberry, Watson carried the lead until the final hole, then lost a playoff to Stewart Cink. He won the Open five times earlier in his career. Woods has won it three times, including the last time it was held here at Royal Liverpool in 2006.

But in 2014, his 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 -- I could get around here. I did the first day. 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.

"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."

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