Turning Back Time at Turnberry

July 18, 2009 -

‘Father Time’ stands not still, but is rewound.

Tom Watson is continuing to defy every conceivable reason why a 59 year old man “can’t” do something.

After 54 holes of the ‘Open” Championship Watson leads golf’s oldest Major Championship. After a superlative opening round of 5-under par, 65, we thought to ourselves “Wow, isn’t that wonderful that Tom played so well at his age; I hope he makes the cut.”

After watching Watson starting to unravel on the front 9 of Friday’s second round, we were hoping that he could somehow gather himself to play on the weekend. Watson made a heroic birdie on the 9th hole before shooting a sensational 32 on the back 9. Watson was tied for the lead after 36 holes but logic told us that he would run out of steam in  Saturday’s, third round. The man is 59 years old.

Watson played an almost flawless round of golf on Saturday, and carded a one over par, 71 to leave him alone at the top of the leader-board. From the impossible to the “it can really happen” in three days.

32 years ago in the Open Championship at this very venue, Turnberry, Watson was the leading man in one of the game’s greatest head to head battles of all time. Playing with Jack Nicklaus they waged what many consider to be the finest weekend duel in Major Championship history. Nicklaus shot 65 and 66; and lost to Watson’s pair of 65’s.

At that time, the golf world had not embraced the 27 year old Watson. He was a freckled faced young man from Kansas who was usurping the throne of the greatest player of all time, Nicklaus. Courteous, quiet and unassuming, the mid-west boy was not your prototypical superstar. That victory at Turnberry was to be the second of Watson’s, 8 Major Championships.

At the end of the 1980’s, Tom Watson could no longer putt. His swing was still the same beautiful flowing motion of before, but his once-legendary putting stroke had completely abandoned him. Over the next few years, Watson had many chances to win but the “yips” would routinely ruin all of them.

Watson never complained. You never heard any “why me’s” from him. No excuses, either. When asked about his putting, Tom would look you in the eye and tell you the truth; as much as it must have hurt him. Watson was as gracious and generous in defeat as he had always been in victory. A gentleman in every sense of the word.

There is still a big difference between leading a tournament after 36 holes and then to be sleeping on the lead after 54 holes. Not to mention competing with young men who could be not only your son; but your grandson.

If Watson were to complete this unimaginable journey and win tomorrow; and that is still a big “if”, it would be the most remarkable victory in the history of golf, if not all sports.

But Tom Watson has already taught us that the unthinkable is indeed possible. That golf does not have age limits; it is timeless and like Mr. Watson, remarkable and eternal.

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