Tom Watson and Golf’s Tragic Consequences

Tom Watson and Golf’s Tragic Consequences 1

“THIS AIN’T A FUNERAL, YOU KNOW,” Tom Watson quipped, sort of, in the interview room following his playoff loss to Stewart Cink at the British Open in Turnberry, Scotland.

Actually, it was.

No, no one died. Just one 59-year-old man’s improbable dream of a sixth Claret Jug, which would have tied him with the great Harry Vardon. Also dead: the hopes of who knows how many casual and serious golf fans who were pulling hard for the new Old Tom.

Cink is a fine player and deserving major winner. I like “Stewie.” A lot. And yet it was an unsatisfying result, wasn’t it?

Center of the green and two putts on the 72nd hole and Watson would send the scribblers on a mad search for words to put the whole affair into a suitable sports-history context. Alas, it turned into a funeral. The playoff was almost too painful to watch. I felt embarrassed for Tom. But he is a gallant man and true champion, and always carries himself as such.

So as I was mowing my lawn—I don’t usually mow on Sunday, but I didn’t know what to do after the unsettling conclusion to the Open—it occurred to me that golf is, in large part, a tragedy.

Every week 130 or so players tee off. Only one wins. Many players come agonizingly close to winning on their way to losing. Golf is ridiculously hard and often fickle, a real heart-breaker, a tragedy waiting to happen.

With all due respect to Stewart Cink, the year’s champion golfer, the 2009 British Open will be remembered as Old Tom’s Tragedy. His loss was my loss, and maybe yours, too. It sure felt like a funeral.

−The Armchair Golfer

Tom Watson Tops News About 59-Year-Olds
Tom Watson Is a Shock to My Golf Senses

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

7 thoughts on “Tom Watson and Golf’s Tragic Consequences”

  1. It definitely feels like a funeral right now, Neil. But I'm sure once this sick feeling leaves my stomach, in time I will come to appreciate this week for the inspiration it gave me."What can I accomplish in another 35 years?" was the question running through my mind this morning.
    Tom's grace and sportsmanship, the way he handled himself- its easy to see why he's one of the greatest golfers in history and so revered, even by his long-time rival, but great friend Jack Nicklaus.
    Once the dust settles, I'm sure I'll find a way to block out that last approach to 18 in regulation, the ball just not stopping no matter how much I begged it to, the putt up the hill that just didn't read the script…Aaaaah I'm not over it yet!

  2. The problem is that America always wants the Hollywood ending. Nothing else is palatable…or commercially sound. And that's too bad because Hollywood endings don't happen often in real life. There wasn't one at Turnberry this year. At 58, Tom Watson played amazingly well, gained many fans and undoubtedly had an awesome experience. In the end an affable, if unlikely, player twenty years his junior grabbed the championship.

    I know it's not the Hollywood outcome many wanted but it's far from tragic, as far as I can see.

  3. There's nothing to be bummed about…it would have been great to have seen history happen. But Stew was more than deserving and I think it's a bit of a bummer that his win is tainted in any way by people viewing this as one Tom 'lost' vs. that something Stewart won. He won it flat out.

    At 59 the original T-dub had nothing to hang his head about and I am appreciative to him for basically saving The Open from being another 'ho-hum' major event.

  4. Don't know what to say. It was an awful moment seeing Tom up to his knees in the rough on that playoff. I remember watching di Marco come so close, against Woods, where he seemingly couldn't get anything to go his way. But that wasn't a fraction of what happened here. That weird bounce on the 18th was agonising. All credit to Cink; but he had no power over that bounce. We can only hope there's some higher order where that awful moment was somehow something other than what it seemed. It was a blow for all who have felt their most supreme efforts in life go unrewarded. It was a bitter taste of the indifference of causality. But it was also a wonderful reminder of what can at least be possible. And Tom's graciousness (in what must have been a totally gut-wrenching defeat… he surely knew he was unlikely ever to come back and get another chance) was deeply inspiring. Sometimes one feels 'hell, it's just golf! – sports, money, fame… so what?' But yesterday was too human for that. I almost wish that players finishing on the same score would share the title.

    Mario (London)

  5. Being an avid golf fan and watching this the whole way through, I can only add it broke my heart. One image we can carry as a good lesson for behavior during good times and bad is the grace and sportsmanship exhibited by Tom Watson. No wonder the fans loved and supported him. Thank you Tom for it all.

  6. I'm a casual golf fan who felt for Tom Watson yesterday, having been born on exactly the same day, September 4, 1949.

    I would like to cherish my memory of yesterday, at the moment when Tom stepped forward to take the putt to win his 6th Open Championship, on the 18th in regulation play…

    But congratulations to Stewart Cink. Remember, as Gore Vidal said: "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

    Tom Watson -a true gentleman and great sportsman.

    John (Edinburgh, Scotland)

  7. As the great sportswriter Grantland Rice once noted:

    For when the one great scorer comes
    to write against your name,
    He writes not that you won or lost
    but how you played the game.

    How can you play the game any better than Watson did? He was nothing short of magnificent.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.