Well, another major is in the books for the boys out on the PGA Tour. And this time, Tiger is not at the top. As a matter of fact, Tiger is nowhere near the top. Tiger had one of the worst weeks of golf that I have ever seen him play. He was missing putts (what’s new) and not hitting fairways (which has been something he has put a lot of time into the last few months.) He was slamming clubs left and right, swearing like a sailor (you know there is a pretty hefty fine for behavior like that) and missed the cut by one stroke. He did have a chance but needed some six guys to bogey in after he was finishing up his round late on Friday. But at the day’s end Tiger was on his private jet back to the states to pout in the corner for not winning yet another major. This is actually only the second time Tiger has missed a cut in a major. How is that for some odds? He is second on the list of majors won (with 14) and has only missed two cuts in the time he has spent throwing his golf ball around the links. He has 14; Jack has 18. And Tiger is only 33 years old. Do you think he will ever break Jack’s record? (The answer is yes, he will in fact break Jack’s record. The only question is when. And I will be at every tournament from 18 W’s and on. I have to be present when he breaks that record. I owe it to myself. And to Tiger.)
But as Tiger headed home for the weekend another name, one that was at a 1,000 to 1 odd for winning the event, found him at the top of the leaderboard. Tom Watson, coming in at a ripe old age of 59 was tied for the lead after Friday. He had made some bombs coming in and sank a 65-foot putt on 18 to put him at a few under par. (I really liked his attire for the week. He was sporting the latest in Polo gear. He is old, sure, but the man can sure dress.)
But what is the big deal about him being in contention? Oh, I don’t know, the fact that he’s old. When was the last time that a man of this age was even close to the lead in a tournament on the PGA, let alone a major? Jack, go figure, holds that record as well. But had he broken that record this week he would have been far out of reach putting 14 years between him and Jack. But records aside, I wanted to talk about his play this week.
Tom comes in, saying early on when asked if he had a chance to win this week, that, “Yes, I have a chance to win. If I were not in a position to play and win, then I would not be here. That is why I do not like playing Augusta. I cannot win there unless I play perfect. Out here I have a chance.” I am not sure how I remember what he said, but I am pretty sure that is exactly what he said. Hence the ” ” marks.
But Tom comes to Turnberry (that is a Troon course you know) and plays some of the best golf of the week. He was hitting his hybrid clubs all over the course and making some massive putts. And he came to the last hole with a one shot lead. The 18th is a par 4 and he hits a driver right down the middle. He is in range to hit an 8 iron. But he says to his caddie that he would feel more comfortable in a 9. Well, he hits the 8, with all the adrenaline in the world running through his aged veins, he blows the green. (How do you hit the club you have the distance for knowing one, the greens are hard as a rock, and two, you are a par away from a major at that age?)
So he has a pretty decent lie, toss the ball up by the hole, leaving himself an eight foot put for the win. Even the guys preaching to me from the grandstands said that this putt was a lock. Well, I am glad that the guy carving the names into the Claret Jug had not started engraving his name just quite yet. Tom hits the putt not only short but he misread it by six inches at least. As soon as he hit it you knew that he missed it. If not for his body language the crowd’s reaction. So on we go to a four hole play off with Stewart “Swine Flu” Cink.
Before you get confused why I say “Swing Flu” let me explain. When Stewart landed to begin his practice rounds he was sick. So sick he almost pulled out of the tournament because of it. But he managed to pull himself together to play. Good thing because he was finding himself in a play off with a life long inspiration in Tom Watson come the end of the week. (Or do you consider Sunday as the first day of the week? Some people say that Sunday is the start of a new week while others argue that Monday, the first work day or the week, is actually the first day of the week? What do you think?) So they head back to the course to play four holes in what some call a stroke / match play scenario. Basically they are playing head to head stroke play, but with only four holes it begins to feel like match play. Confusing, I know. Especially when the US Open is an 18 hole playoff. Or the sudden death format at Augusta for the Masters. Why can’t they just settle on one style of play? If I had any say in it it would be an 18 hole play off the next day. Give them time to rest and 18 holes to be allowed a bad hole or two and still have a chance. It is truly the only “fair” way to handle a playoff.
But long story short, because if you did not watch it you heard about it this morning, Cink goes on to shoot two under for the four holes, beating Tom Watson by four shots. This was Cink’s first major, and the tears of joy during his acceptance speech (which to me was WAY too long) made it oh so bitter sweet. Tom Watson has no one to blame for losing this tournament but himself. Cink birdies 18. He gets within a shot. Then Watson gets to three under, bogey’s 18, and makes a mess of the golf course through the four hole playoff. It honestly looked and felt like Tom Watson simply gave up by the time he was done with the first playoff hole. Blame it on age, I guess.
But that is not the issue at hand. (I know right, I make you read all that before I even get to my point. Hate me, it’s OK.) According to Chris Chase, a blogger for Yahoo! Sports, thinks that Stewart Cink is a villain. Not every day, though, just when he steals the spot light from Watson. Chase said that Cink stole the trophy right out from under Watson. He said that Watson, a five time champion mind you, was destined to win this event. Not the first time winner that would be Cink. Well, I tell you what Mr. Chase, you could not be more wrong. No one stole anything. As a matter of fact, Watson handed the trophy over to Cink on a silver (no pun intended) platter. (Is it ironic that Watson won the silver medal for coming in second place?)
One thing that I am glad to see is the mentioned in this article is a Twitter reference. He discussed Cink’s followers count and talks about how likable of a guy that Cink really is. And I agree. I had the chance to meet Cink, and actually walk 18 holes with him, back in 2000 at the PGA Championship held in Louisville, Kentucky at Valhalla. That was a week for another blog post, but one of the best weeks of my life. Meeting guys like Mickelson, Tiger, Palmer, Garcia, Singh; the list truly goes on and on. But having had the chance to work with Cink one-on-one I know that he is just a truly genuine guy. So having Mr. Chase call this true athlete a villain for winning a golf tournament is just an outrage. By the way, Mr. Chase, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the idea of teeing up on Thursday the point of lifting the trophy on Sunday?
I can understand how a Watson fan could be upset. I can even see how a fan of the game could be upset. I mean, I do not usually watch unless Tiger is in contention. But this intrigued me seeing Watson get so close to the top. I watched it shot for shot and was a little disappointed at the end to see him fall apart like that, but I was happy for Cink being the one that in the end truly deserved the trophy. Say what you want, but time and time again the one with the lowest score always wins. Watson did not have the lowest score. Do I need to explain how this works to you?
So if Stewart Cink is a villain for winning the British Open, then every player that has ever won a tournament is a villain. Do you think that Stewart cares what you think about him? Guess what, even though you think he stole the trophy from Watson, he still has his name on the 2009 Claret Jug.