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PGA Tour Confidential: British Open

Tom Watson, British Open
Robert Beck/SI
Tom Watson watched his sixth British Open slip away when he missed his par putt on the 18th green.

Every week of the 2009 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The British Open is over, and many are still in mourning that Tom Watson, the 59-year-old contender, lost it. Watson joked at his quiet press conference, "Well, it's not a funeral, you know," but it did feel like one.

Apparently this is the Year of Lost Majors. Kenny Perry lost the Masters, Phil Mickelson lost the U.S. Open (again) and the amazing Watson lost the British despite flagging an 8-iron shot on the 72nd hole. It's hard to find much consolation for ol' Tom. It's unlikely he'll contend for another major, and the idea of winning a historic sixth Open all these years later was oh-so enticing.

Stewart Cink's two-under par showing in the playoff was impressive, and he's a worthy champion, but this will be remembered as the Open that Watson lost. What are your thoughts, fellow Confidentialists, on the demise of what would've been the Golf Story of the Year, and maybe the Golf Story of All Time? (Even bigger, I think, than Tiger's win last year at Torrey Pines.)

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: You've got to believe some part of Cink felt weird about having to go out and slay Watson in front of the world. I know there's no room for sentiment in the world of pro sports, but it must have felt like having to tell a room full of kids there is no Santa Claus.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I think you're right, but Cink was dialed in during the playoff. When he made the putt on 5 for a four to take the lead, you had the feeling he was willing, and able, to step on Watson's hopes.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I hustled over to the tented village as the playoff began, because the biggest pub crowd in Open history was gathered to watch the finish on the giant screen by the 17th hole. Believe me, that crowd HATED Cink! Not for anything he did, just for being Watson's spoiler. When Stewart's ball started rolling toward the greenside bunker on the first playoff hole, Brits were yelling, "Go in! Go in!" And when Watson had that tough putt to save par on the par 3, a woman behind me was praying out loud, moaning, "Oh, sweet Jesus, pul-eeze!" As an eavesdropping Yank, I felt bad for both of our guys.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can honestly say that I've never seen a press corps undergo the mood swing it did from the moment Watson's ball was in the air on the 18th hole to when it landed. As writers, we root for the story, and a Watson win would have transcended golf and made for one joyride of a Sunday-night write. Who knows when this opportunity will ever come again. Golf is a beautiful and tragic game. There's nothing like it on this big blue marble.

Morfit: Agreed. The finish sucked all the oxygen out of this place. I saw an awful lot of fans headed for the exits with their heads down as Watson made a haggis of 17. Journos would have left, too, if not for, you know, the job and all.

Connell Barrett, editor-at-large, Golf Magazine: After it was over, I wanted to kick a can around my block. "No fair! A hard bounce on 18. The golf gods robbed Watson!" But he had so many breaks. The claret jug was being presented to him on a platter. Tiger? Gone. Furyk and Retief were on milk cartons. Westwood and Goggin stumbled in. All the planets were aligned. He just couldn't get up-and-down. I'm guessing that his greatest regret, when he reflects on today, will be the tentative putt for par on the 72nd hole. He never gave the ball a chance to fall. It'll be tough for him to sleep tonight. All that said, I feel honored as a golf fan and golf journalist to have witnessed this week, win or lose.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: As a Kansas City native and fan, I have to say to the sporting gods — haven't we suffered enough? To tease us with this near miracle was just not fair.

Garrity: Speaking as a fellow Kansas Citian, I'm with Charlie on this. A Watson win would have felt like the '85 Royals winning the World Series. (It was '85, wasn't it? It's been so long.)

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: Watson deserved better on the 72nd. Hit two great shots. Unfortunately he followed them with two really shaky ones.

Van Sickle: Yeah, I'd like to know which golfing god caused Watson's 8-iron to run two feet too far. If it stays on the green, as it appeared it should have, he could've gagged it down in two for the win.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Here in the Turnberry press room everyone is still buzzing about Watson's shot into 18 in regulation. He did pure it, but it took a hard bounce and trickled over the back. He later admitted he was between an 8-iron and a 9 and he chose the 8, even straight downwind and with all that adrenaline. I was standing next to the green for the last couple of groups and all the balls were taking big bounces. You'd think that after all these years Watson would've known to hit the 9. Better to be a little short with a 30 foot putt than long to a back flag. It was a rookie mistake that ultimately cost him the Open.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Did Watson's caddie and friend, Neil Oxman, a part-time caddie and full-time Philadelphia political consultant, call a club all week? I think on 18 with a one-shot lead you take long out of play with a 9-iron. Watson needed a professional caddie at that point — not a friend.

Jim Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: I don't think you hang it on the caddie. Watson's been there before and should've known what to do.

Shipnuck: Watson's been winning tournaments for more than three decades. He should be able to pull his own clubs, especially on the 72nd hole. And Oxman is a professional caddie. He's been Watson's regular caddie for at least five years.

Morfit: Even though Watson went over the green, he still gets that ball up and down 9 times out of 10. I just think the enormity of the moment finally got to him on that first jack-hammered putt. All credit to him for lasting as long as he did.

Garrity: Anybody remember that Watson had a 22-mph ocean wind at his back? It was gusting as high as 30 and then dropping back into the teens. As Tom said in his press conference, he hit that 8-iron the way he wanted to and he liked it when it was in the air.

Van Sickle: Cink had a strange finish. On one hand, he looked all Padraig Harrington with four birdies on the final nine, including the big one at 18. And talk about out of character. I don't recall seeing quiet Stew walking in a putt when it was only halfway to the hole. If he doesn't hole that one, Watson still wins the Open. On the other hand, when the Open was on the line, he badly missed short putts on 16 and 17. On the third hand, he played immaculate golf in the playoff when it really counted.

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