I’m totally bummed.
As Tom Watson struck his second shot on the 18th hole, as the ball flew on a straight line towards the pin, it seemed, to me, as if I was watching history. Not just the “oh, that’s nice” kind of history. But serious, serious history. Once in a lifetime stuff.
This was Hollywood material. Watson was the Rocky Balboa of the golfing world, the past-his-prime athlete who–just perhaps–had one more great run in him.
But this wasn’t Hollywood and Lee Westwood and Stewart Cink weren’t the ugly Russian or Tommy Morrison. This was the real thing, and Tommy W. was looking to reclaim a crown he had not held in over two decades. The Claret Jug was in his grasp.
But Watson’s approach flew five yards too far, rocketed off the hard 18th green, and eventually trickled by the hole and rested at the bottom of the mound surrounding the green.
Get up and down, Tom. Get up and down, and you win. No one wants to see a playoff, no one except Stewart Cink.
Get up and down, Tom. That’s all the golf world wanted. He chose a putter for his third shot, though the ball sat down in a thicket of grass. The shot slid about 10 feet past the hole.
Mike Tirico said it perfectly. How ironic it was that Tom Watson, who is known quite well for his shaky short putts in the last 20 years, was left with a 10 footer to win his sixth British Open, his ninth major championship, and become the oldest golfer to win a major. The putt wasn’t even close.
At that point, Stewart Cink had all the momentum–and it showed. Watson seemed like a different golfer in the playoff, spraying shots left and right. He made an incredible up and down on the second playoff hole, but that wasn’t near enough.
Stewart Cink–a great guy and deserving champ in his own right–won the Claret Jug today. But Tom Watson provided the memories. My wife even sat in and watched the heart-wrenching 18th hole with me. And you know it’s important if my wife is watching golf with me.
So, yes, I’m totally bummed. Today was so close to being one of the greatest rounds of golf I’ve ever witnessed. We expect this stuff from Tiger Woods. We expect this stuff from Phil Mickelson. But a 59 year old, no matter how decorated a champion he may be, is not supposed to win one of golf’s major championships. This doesn’t happen.
But, today, Tom Watson came inches from claiming that crown. It was probably the most fun I’ve had watching golf in a long, long time.
Watson was my childhood golfing hero. In the mid 1980s, he had already won all the major championships he would win. So I never got to see Tom win much. I caught him a bit after his prime, when the yips and the shaky putting stroke set in.
So, like millions across the country, I relived the past today. In his press conference this afternoon, Watson said, “It would have been a helluva story.” Yes, it would have. But hopefully Watson realizes that, though he finished second, golfers will talk about this day for years to come.
One of the greatest and classiest golfers of all time gave the golfing world one more unbelievable story to tell.
Thank you, Tom Watson.