I have been pretty good this year. I havent read about it. I havent youtubed it. I have been trying to avoid it all costs. Unfortunately the nightmare from 2009 is real. No matter how hard I try I cant get away from it. And every July the punch in the gut and the heart being ripped out happens again.
In just a couple of hours, golf’s 3rd major will begin. There are major storylines floating around. Can Spieth win his 3rd major of the year and have a shot at the single season Grand Slam? How will Dustin Johnson respond after a heart wrenching finish at the US Open? What will Tiger have this week? How often will we have to hear about futballer Rory McIlroy? And last how will Tom Watson fare in his final open?
The storylines are there for this to be a classic Open as it returns to the home of golf. Its only fitting. Unfortunately for me, there is the nightmare that plays in the back of my head. One of the worst losses ever. A fairy tale to a nightmare in matter of seconds.
At 59 he stood in the middle of the fairway on 18 with a one shot lead. Par for the win. Again a 59 year old with an artificial hip!! After a perfect drive he stands 180 yards out with an 8 iron in his hand. As good of swing as you can ask for in this situation. A comment from his caddie as the ball is in flight “I like it”. A ball that should have been a birdie opportunity ends up over the green. The Open vet, a 5 time winner, chooses the putter for his 3rd and hits it to about 7 feet. Now a 7 footer stands between the 59 year old Tom Watson and his 6th Open.
The 59 year old, didnt look like a 59 year old for 71 and 3/4 holes. He opened the Open with a 5 under 65. He played solid on Friday shooting even. Just as it appeared the magic was running out Saturday at Turnberry following 5 bogeys, the crafty vet battled shooting 32 on the back. That 32 included a bomb on 18 that put Watson in the final pairing for Championship Sunday. Old Tom Morris won the open at 46, which made him the oldest winner. And now a 59 year old playing in the final group!
For 71 holes and 3 shots on the 18th the 59 year old was writing a fairy tale. Unfortunately the 59 year old looked 59 as he stroke his par putt and a putt that would have given him his 6th Claret Jug. All fairy tales dont have happy endings. And this was one of them as unworthy champion Stewart Cink took the jug in the playoff. The 6th at age 59 was not to be.
I came across a story today that Watson tells about the phone call he received from Jack Nicklaus following the Open heartbreak that sums it up perfectly:
“Jack called me, and he consoled me, but he made a joke, and that was the fun thing about it. He said you know Tom, you hit a great tee ball off the 18th. Then you hit a perfect second shot. He says if it stops 6 inches shorter, you 2 putt and win the tournament. The 3rd shot, you played the right shot, you putted the ball rather than chipping it. You gave yourself a chance to win the tournament. A stubbed chip or something and you’re cooked. But putting the ball from there on that cuppie lie I had right there, he said, was the right shot. Then he said you hit the putt like the rest of us would have hit it.”
Unfortunately, the gut punch comes back each July as the Open gets set to kick off. As Tom Watson says goodbye to the Open, I only hope he has one bit of magic left. One bit that sends a knockout to the gut punch of the heartbreak in 09.