Friday, July 16, 2010
Tom Watson Says Goodbye to St. Andrews
Back in 2005, Jack Nicklaus was walking up the 18th at St. Andrews, his last showing in the great Open Championship that gave him three Claret Jugs and us a million memories throughout the decades. On the first tee, a focused Tiger Woods was standing, waiting to hit his tee shot in the second round. One generation says goodbye, another is ready for the torch.
This year, at that same golf course on that same, majestic hole, Tom Watson was saying goodbye to St. Andrews, a course he could never quite conquer but one he still loved, and that loved him. Watson will probably forever remember the tournament where he could have taken down Seve Ballesteros on these famed links in 1984, but became yet another victim of the emotionless 17th, making bogey when he needed par.
All that doesn't matter now. Watson, a man that is such a gentleman he makes church goers seem rude by comparison, is 60 and said he won't be returning to St. Andrews. As he walked up the 18th late Friday evening, that same Woods character was standing on the 18th green, eying an eagle putt to give himself a chance at another Claret Jug. Watson was there. So was Woods. Somewhere I'm sure Jack Nicklaus had a television set on, keeping up with the legends he calls friends.
Sometimes the golf gods just don't do right. As Watson drove his ball up the 18th fairway like he always has, and for a moment became a golf fan just like the millions of others that have stopped on the Swilken Bridge for a picture and a memory, it was the end of an era in golf. First Arnie, then Jack and now Tom. Those there were the ones that moved golf in different ways. Palmer made it cool to hit the ball. Jack made it athletic. Tom made it exciting. For the rest of the time we are on this Earth, things like The Duel in the Sun will be as famous to the British Open as Guinness, and we can thank Watson and Nicklaus for that exhibition of perfection.
So, back to those golf gods. Watson is standing over his second shot. The 18th, while incredible in a historical sense, is not the toughest of golf holes. Back in 2005, Nicklaus ended his bid at St. Andrews with a birdie and one of the loudest cheers you'll ever hear that didn't come on the back nine of the Masters. So, Watson, a hero in these parts for what he's done for links golf, has a short pitch over the Valley of Sin to a tight pin. He struck it ... someone in the audience screamed "Get in the Hole" like they always do, only this time, it wasn't so crazy. The ball skipped, spun and was going dead center ... only, it stopped ... a roll short of disappearing for an eagle, reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus at the Memorial some years ago when, paired with Tiger, he needed to hole out for eagle on 18 to make the cut and nearly did.
Watson's ball wouldn't go down (Damn you golf gods!) and he had to settle for a birdie, and a goodbye to St. Andrews that we won't soon forget.
We thank you Tom for making rooting for a 60-year-old the cool thing to do, and for always smiling and waving and being a class act. You're what we all hope we can turn out to be when we're older, and to watch you do what you do is a privilege everyday. I'm sure Muirfield will be the final act in Tom's British play in 2013, as it should be. For now, St. Andrews says goodbye to a legend. The run has been as fun for us as it was for you, Mr. Watson.