Having played this game for two score years and more, competitively but poorly for 15 years and commentated for countless hours, I have become a veteran observer of what this game has given and taken from so many. I have seen the ‘stake through the heart’ of many great young players like Bobby Clampett and Bobby Cole, who had all but their hands on the Claret Jug. Their failure was critical and terminal to their potentially great careers. We have witnessed great displays of courage and control and the feelings of ecstasy that go with holing that final putt on the 72nd hole of The Open…..Seve at St. Andrews. We have also seen the agony and consequences of those who should have won but had The Open stolen from them….. Jacklin at Muirfield….. Sanders at St Andrews.
Today was all of what this great game is about. I have believed for many years as I watched the true Champions of my era wind down their illustrious careers that ‘lady golf’ gives back to those humble ‘gentleman’ Champions that have given so much back during their lives. It has also dealt cruel blows to those that simply took and never knew the joy of giving. The pros and those themselves know who.
She bestowed a magnificent ‘kiss goodbye’ to Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46 with his son Jackie on the bag. Johnny Miller got a peck on the cheek winning the AT &T event on the memorable Pebble Beach at well past his sell by date.
For years I have waited for her to bestow her gift upon Tom Watson. I gave up backing him in Majors only five years ago and wondered why she had forsaken this true lover of Links golf and adopted son of Scotland, a great gentleman who understood the deepest roots of the integrity of this game and who also carried the name of their greatest ever golfer, ‘Old Tom’
The cries from the fairways today were almost haunting……”come on Tommy, ye can do it”. It was as if ‘Old Tom’ himself was there in the clouds looking down at his ‘son’ Tom trying to equal Vardon’s epic record. You know he would have wished him well on that eighteenth tee, and with that perfectly struck eight iron through that famous ‘tunnel’ where dreams come true and ring in the ears of Champions forever.
Alas, as I screamed, with my son looking at me in bewilderment when it did not bite on its second bounce, almost hit the pin for a fairytale finish, but then painfully trickled over the green up against the inevitable fringe. It was at that moment I knew that it was Father Time up there and not Old Tom or The Old Lady. Father Time is both judge and executioner.
The steel cold eyes never changed, the brisk walk was still there but the spirit was alas broken on the inside.
This truly great Champion will be remembered in folklore for his walks through the tunnel at Turnberry, not just against Jack but against father time, when he proved it is possible to win a Major at 60.
She has given you a beautiful kiss goodbye, young Tom.
Roddy Carr July 19th 2009