Just a few holes too many. That was the problem for Tom Watson. When he'd given so much over the four days, leading virtually from wire to wire, it was always going to be a big ask to extend the magic for four more holes. Watson couldn't put his finger on what went wrong in the playoff, as he described it, it was like the air went out of the balloon, the wheels just came off after that second shot on the 73rd. It was really a sad thing to watch, as it was not what Watson deserved. Sudden death would at least have spared him fighting on on a lost cause, but then it did afford him one more richly deserved round of acclamation on his shot putt on the last. The outpouring of love and admiration was well earned as he provided one of the most compelling of stories ever seen in the Open. But it was the only point inthe whole week when Watson's age actually seemed to be an issue, testament to just how fit and supple he has kept himself.
It's a tournament that always seems to have a story to it, last year it was the return of the old shark, and the defending champ coming in with injury to go on to win. This year there was Ross Fisher with his missus at home ready to pop at any moment. And then there was Tom. Sweet magnificent Tom. He was meant to be there to make up the numbers, be the old guy sucking up the plaudits on day two as he went up 18 and they showed the clips of the duel in the sun and commentators reminisced and then gone home to leave the young guns to settle matters. But I wonder whether it was simply the case, that with all the interviews beforehand, where every paper in the land wanted to go over the events of 1977, the epic battle with Nicklaus, that it awakened some old memories in those old bones, (those that are left, he got a new plastic hip a few months back). The competitive fires got stoked thinking back on old glories and he decided there was one big one left in the old campaigner.
It is almost criminal that Watson didn't win, and it's all the crueller for the fact that Cink was rarely in the mix all week. He bubbled along, under the radar. Had it been Westwood, Goggin, even Goosen, it might have been a bit easier to take but the fact that Cink hadn't even registered as a potential winner until about two holes from home, grates with me somewhat. But then, Mark O'Meara wasn't exactly the one we were looking at until he rattled in that putt on 18 way back when he won his Masters. He cemented his reputation by picking up the Open. It'll take something like that from Cink before we'll really think of him as a Major champion, not the bloke who spoilt the party. I do feel sorry for him in one sense, though - after all, you can't pick your opponents for a playoff and it's pretty hard to come off looking good when you've beaten an old man.
But Watson shall get over it, as he was heard complaining to Mathew Goggin about on the first fairway, he has the Senior Open and then the Senior US Open to play in the coming weeks, I have a feeling his odds for those will be considerably shorter than 1500-1. Tom Watson, you're the very definition of the word legend and you know what, I think it was a hell of a story.