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Plenty root for Watson during historic run

Plenty root for Watson during historic run

KANSAS CITY -- The buzz started filtering through Kauffman Stadium about noon CT on Sunday, an hour before the start of the Royals' game against the Rays.

Tom Watson -- Kansas City's Tom Watson -- remained in the lead of the British Open at age 59.

Scenes from the golf tournament played out on the Crown Vision video board in center field. A few Royals players kept an eye on the tournament in the clubhouse. And fans were glued to televisions in the stadium's Rivals Sports Bar and Diamond Club.

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The dream would end after 71 holes. Watson would have been the oldest Major championship winner in golf history. Instead, he missed a 10-foot putt on the 18th hole that would have given him the championship, and he lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.

Two hours later, with the Royals leading the Rays, 3-0, in the bottom of the fifth, you could still see and hear a few remnants of Watson's Kauffman Stadium takeover.

A woman talked about Watson between bites of french fries at a table inside Rivals Sports Bar in right field.

"He's from Kansas City, Missouri," she said proudly.

A few feet away, Chris Thomas and Adam Heffley watched the game from a table inside the bar.

A television showing Watson's post-tournament news conference hung a few feet in front of them.

"We watched the playoff up here," Thomas said. "It was packed."

Thomas and Heffley said they're golf guys. Golf guys that had never seen anything like this.

"We were watching the big screen, there was a big crowd around it," Thomas said. "When he sunk that long putt, the place went crazy, like someone just hit a home run."

Yep, for a few minutes anyway, Rivals felt like the snack bar at the local golf links.

It made sense, of course. Watson grew up in Kansas City, went to high school here, and he's been a constant presence -- and fan -- at Kauffman Stadium for decades.

Rays manager Joe Maddon crossed paths with Watson a few years ago at a game.

"I got to meet him a couple of years ago here and shake his hand behind home plate," Maddon said. "Being that I'm 55, I'm pulling for the guy right there. But regardless of what happened today, he still won."

Watson had the attention of players as well, including 38-year-old Royals reliever Ron Mahay.

"Just because you're getting older doesn't mean you lose what you're capable of doing," Mahay said. "And Tom's been out there doing it for umpteen years now and he just pretty much had a string of pars and birdies. Kind of like us, we have our strings of scoreless innings.

"With age, you get smarter, like he gets smarter and knows the courses better and what he can and can't do. With myself, I hopefully get smarter and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with it."

The Royals acknowledged Watson with a video tribute during the game, and television broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre gave a Watson update on the air.

"That's one of the greatest moments in golf history," Rays pitcher James Shields said after the game. "To have a guy who is 59 years old, almost 60 years old, compete in an Open is amazing. I was pulling for him the whole way."

Royals pitcher Brian Bannister didn't get a chance to watch. He'd heard that Watson had dropped a few shots back during the final round. He didn't realize he'd lost in a playoff.

"That was amazing," Bannister said. "I was rooting for him."

By the time the game entered the sixth inning, the scene inside Rivals had calmed down. Watson had concluded his news conference, and his face left the televisions. Heffley and Thomas sipped on drinks and turned their attention back to the field.

"We we're disappointed," Heffley said. "But he's 59, and he's had his day."

A few fans didn't take the news so well.

"This other guy just came up and asked us who won because he had missed it," Thomas said. "We told him, and he just about cried right here."

Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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