The Open 2011: Tom Lewis paired with veteran Tom Watson

By Ged ScottBBC Sport
Tom Lewis and Tom Watson
Lewis (left) secured an Open spot, and a pairing with Watson, at Rye last week

Tom Lewis will not simply be teeing up alongside a mere golfing legend when he launches his first Open at Royal St George's on Thursday afternoon.

The young man from Welwyn is actually playing with the man he was named after - his father's old hero Tom Watson.

"He's my dad's favourite golfer," Lewis, 20, told BBC Sport. "And I don't think he believed me when I told him.

"I'm paired with Henrik Stenson too. It's really good of the R&A to put me with two great players," added Lewis.

"It's a great draw for me. Henrik and I had a practice round together in Dubai. And everyone only ever has good things to say about Tom Watson."

Highly-rated amateur Lewis, whose father Brian played regularly in the company of another multiple major winner Nick Faldo at Welwyn Garden City three or more decades ago, admits that he too was cheering on Watson when the five-times Open champion challenged so strongly at Turnberry two years ago - at the venerable age of 59.

"I really am named after him," said Lewis, " and I was rooting for him, as was my dad obviously."

In the end, 35 years on from winning his first Open in an 18-hole Monday play-off against Jack Newton at Carnoustie, Watson found the strain of those four extra holes that sunny Sunday evening in Ayrshire too much against Stewart Cink.

But, as he prepares to walk the fairways of Sandwich alongside Old Tom, Young Tom insists that Watson is still capable of challenging.

"I was watching him on the range," he said. "And I don't think he took a divot. He's still playing really well.

"But, for me, it will just be really nice to have the chance to meet him and talk to him."

As for Lewis's own chances, after shooting rounds of 63 and 65 to win the Local Final Qualifying at Rye last week, he has earned himself a place back on a course he knows well, having won the British Boys' Championship at Royal St George's as recently as two years ago.

"I was so pleased to win at Rye as I won the British Boys' here in 2009," he added. "I feel like I've played well here in the past and it suits me.

"If I can play well this week, I can compete. If I don't then I'll be going home on Saturday.

"I've played more links than anyone else, played well this year and I've got no excuses

"Every time I've come here it's always been blue skies and I hope it stays like that. I just want to try and perform this work and prove I'm not too bad. And it would be nice to stand in front of those yellow scoreboards as a Silver Medal winner."

Lewis, who started playing at the age of four under his dad's guidance, knows where he gets his love of the game from.

"Dad played on tour growing up with Nick Faldo in Welwyn," said Lewis. "And I don't know where I'd be without his help, helping me to learn off the top people, like Peter Cowan who I've worked with for the past four years and who has opened a few doors."

But Lewis also admits that one of his chief inspirations was seeing the success of one of his English amateur rivals Laurie Canter in winning Local Final Qualifying at Fairmont to make it to St Andrews a year ago.

"I tried to qualify then, but failed," he said. "But, when Lawrie won, it made me think if he was able to do that then I could too.

"When you see one of your friends and rivals playing well like that, it makes you think you can win too."