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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 298
VIEW THE ROD MORRI is an award-winning writer and podcast presenter. He hosts The iseekgolf.com Podcast weekly. CLICK here to listen. SADLY, WATSON’S FAIRYTALE REMAINS JUST THAT I n any trial to convict golf of the crime of ‘cruelly teasing its best exponents’, Exhibit A would surely be Tom Watson. Watson is a five times Open champion and winner of three of the game’s four Grand Slam events. How then, I hear you ask, could it possibly be said that the game has been anything but good to him? And I see your point. Watson’s is a career any player would be proud of. And yes, it’s true that every successful golfer can easily recount to you tales of the ones that got away. And Watson has plenty of those, too. But golf – or more accurately links golf – seems to have reserved a special place to taunt the now 68-year-old Watson. Less than a decade after the heart-breaking loss to Stewart Cink at Turnberry, here was Watson again being teased by the opportunity to do something special. In all his glorious victories at the game’s oldest major, Watson never won at St Andrews. Like the PGA, which would have completed the career Grand Slam, victory at the Home of Golf sat just beyond his reach. (He was second there in 1984). But unlike the PGA, Watson was given one last shot at the Old Course. A long shot, maybe, but a shot all the same and it was one he grabbed, like a true champion, with both hands. While wife Hilary has been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer since late last year, Watson has played little competitive golf. Four starts in 2018 have yielded less than spectacular results but given circumstances away from the course that was of little consequence. At St Andrews, though, there was magic in the air. Watson opened with an unlikely 69 to be inside the top 20 and when he shot his age on day two, in windy and difficult conditions, he was just two shots off the pace and T6. Anybody with any understanding of the game knows 36 holes is a lot of golf but halfway to the finish line even the most cynical couldn’t help but dare to dream. Then on Saturday things really started to get crazy. Watson eagled the fifth and birdied the sixth and by the time he walked off the 10th tee he was leading – yes, leading – the tournament. Now, nobody would try to suggest the Senior British Open is as important as THE Open. Nor would anybody suggest that a year and a bit shy of 70, Watson is a world beater. But a golfer can only compete against the field that is there on the day and on this day, against this field of his peers, Watson was setting the pace. Like Tiger Woods at Carnoustie the week before, a palpable sense of excitement began to build around Watson. When he stumbled with a bogey at the 12th he hit back with an immediate birdie at 13. A double bogey at 14 was deflating – as was a bogey-bogey finish – but when all was said and done the damage was minimal. Watson would start Sunday still T6 and just three shots behind. Fairy tale endings are just that for a reason. They are rare. It’s what makes them special. But they are also the reason we watch sport – and golf perhaps more-so than any other – because you just never know when one might happen. It would be wonderful if we could say a fairy tale happened Sunday at St Andrews, though of course it didn’t. 77 strokes won’t, and frankly doesn’t deserve, to win any professional tournament. Watson himself was philosophical about his five- over score and the chance gone begging. “I just hit it in too many bunkers today,” he said. “You find the bunkers around here, the old lady will get you.” He’s right, of course. And his career and legacy are not diminished in any way by his T21 finish. But oh what a story it would have been if he had managed to get it done. It was less painful than his 72nd hole stumble nine years ago. But not by much.
GA Express 297
GA Express 299