By all fist-shaking accounts, Phil Mickelson’s bizarre and controversial US Open antics recently should have had him locked up in stocks on the Bruce Embankment for crimes against golf.

In a bamboozling episode on the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills a few weeks ago, Mickelson deliberately hit his moving ball to prevent it trundling off the putting surface in a brazen breach of both the rules and the etiquette of the game. Mickelson showed little remorse in the immediate aftermath and admitted the act was quite deliberate although, amid much global condemnation and widespread harrumphing, he did finally admit to being “embarrassed and disappointed” by his actions a few days later.

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Not everybody was blowing steam from their nostrils, though. The celebrated golden oldie, Tom Watson, may be an unlikely ally given Mickelson’s grisly humiliation of him in the aftermath of the 2014 Ryder Cup but the 68-year-old has offered his understanding.

“I think it was much ado about nothing,” said Watson, who is gearing up for a return to the home of golf later this month when the Senior Open comes to the Old Course. “People have just made a mountain out of a mole hill here. I mean, let it go. Every golfer has had that. They have thrown golf clubs and they have sworn and done other things that we laugh at. It's an iconic moment in the history of meltdowns.

“I laughed out loud when he did it because I commiserated with him. I knew exactly what he was feeling. He was so frustrated. You as a golfer, me as a golfer, everybody who has been a golfer has shared that frustration. We busted through the frustration level and we just had to act out on it and that's all he did. No, he shouldn't have been disqualified. No, not at all. He just was totally frustrated about it. He did what any golfer might want to do.”

Away from the heated topics of debate, Watson is relishing a return to the cradle of the game. Scotland has been a golfing home from home for this decorated Kansas veteran since he won his first Open here on his first visit at Carnoustie in 1975. Four of his five Claret Jug conquests were achieved on Scottish soil while his three Senior Open wins have been claimed at Turnberry, Muirfield and Royal Aberdeen.

Watson’s anecdote about losing his ball with the very first shot he hit on a links course at Monifieth in the build up to that 1975 Open has been told so many times, it should be preserved in a protective casing at the British Golf Museum. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight but Watson learned to love the quirks and absurdities of this particular type of golf.

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The Old Course will be staging the over-50s showpiece for the first time this month with Watson himself heavily instrumental in getting the powers that be to bring the championship to the Auld Grey Toun. His swansong in the Open itself came at St Andrews in 2015 when a weather delay led to his final, emotional meander up the 18th fairway taking place in the fading light. It wasn’t quite the rapturous send-off many had hoped for but Watson is not one to get carried away by dewy-eyed nostalgia. “I tell you what coming back for the Senior Open does,” he said. “It allows me to rectify my last hole of Open Championship golf, which I concluded with a pretty good drive, a shank and a three putt for a bogey. I'd like to get even with that just a little bit.”

Watson may be one of the oldest swingers in town on the senior scene, but this hardy competitor won’t just coming to St Andrews for a trip down memory lane. “I’m probably the oldest guy in the group but I still have the belief that I can compete,” he said. “I might have a few tricks up my sleeve.”

That’s the links effect for you.