“This ain’t a funeral. It would have been a helluva story. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Those were Tom Watson’s opening words in the press conference which followed immediately after Stewart Cink was presented the Claret Jug. Our favorite PGA tweeter beat Watson in a four hole playoff to capture his first major championship. To say it was tough to watch Watson crumble during those extra holes is an understatement.
It did feel like a funeral for some – present company included. I held it together until Watson walked up to accept the silver plate for placing second. Then I lost it for a few minutes (on several occasions, including while I wrote this post). You would have thought my dog had just died.
To Cink’s credit, coming down the stretch, he was the only guy who made a putt when it really mattered. And that’s what it comes down to winning in majors. He drained a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th hole. Rewind eight years to the ‘01 US Open. Stewie blew an eighteen inch putt on the final hole to miss the playoff between Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks. So, you could say the putt today was some sort of redemption.
So it happened we didn’t get our fairy tale ending with a Watson win – one that would have been the greatest moment in golfing history and the biggest sports story of the year, no less. In my mind, it still was. To watch 59-year-old Tom Watson even almost win the ‘09 British Open is the most inspiring and extraordinary golfing moment so far in my lifetime — at least one that I’m old enough to appreciate.
No doubt Cink was a deserving champion. But in a few years or maybe even less, we’ll look back and remember the ‘09 British Open as the one Watson almost won; the one where he almost became the oldest major champion in any sporting event. We’ll remember Watson’s solid ball striking and those 20-40 footers he drained. We’ll conjure up the memory of him walking up the 18th hole and waving his hat to the crowd. His performance this week might not be more impressive than Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters in ‘86, but it sure will be just as memorable, if not more. Hats off to you, Mr. Watson.
[Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images Europe]