Watson convinced he played it right at Open

Watson convinced he played it right at Open

Watson lifts his hat to the crowd and the course.
Robert Beck/SI

SUNNINGDALE, England (AP) — Tom Watson says he is already over the heartbreak of missing out on a sixth British Open title at Turnberry, and is convinced he played the right approach shot at the final hole.

The 59-year-old golf great was on the verge of becoming the oldest winner of a major when he led by one stroke going down the last fairway on Sunday. But he wound up losing a playoff to Stewart Cink after he sent an 8-iron approach that rolled right across the green, and then missed an 8-foot putt for the win.

“No, there’s no self-recrimination. There can’t be,” Watson said Tuesday, as he turned his attention to trying to win the Senior British Open for a fourth time. “I tried my best on every shot, and sometimes you make the right judgments and sometimes you don’t. If I hit a 9-iron on the last hole, I may hit it three inches fat and come up 20 yards short, who knows? I hit the shot I wanted to and, when it was in the air, I thought: ‘This may be mine.”‘

Despite the outcome, Watson said he couldn’t have hit the shot any better.

“You look back in perspective of the rounds and how they went, that 8-iron that I hit at 18 will always live with me,” Watson said. “I hit the shot that I wanted to hit, I really did. And I asked my friend, Andy North, exactly where that ball landed on the green. He said it landed one foot on to the surface, over the knob, one foot on the surface. So it had the whole length of the green to stop. That’s where I was trying to hit it. I was trying to hit it 164 yards, right there. It just didn’t stop.

“I look at that shot, I hit it perfectly, and didn’t get the break.”

Watson said he had a near sleepless night on Sunday and had to console his “distraught” 26-year-old son Michael. But he then had no problems putting what happened in perspective, comparing it with his visit two years ago to the hospitalized U.S. troops in Iraq, some of whom sent him messages after coming so close at Turnberry.

“There is still quite a vacuum in the stomach,” he said. “I’m not crying but I’ve been affected by it to a certain degree. But this, too, shall pass. Honestly it’s not the most important thing in life.

“What puts it in perspective is, very frankly, a series of contacts from people I met when I went to Iraq a couple of years ago. Many of them have contacted me and said: ‘Congratulations, and, oh, by the way, when you’re in a neck-high bunker and you have a 4-footer, just remember, it’s just a game.’

“I give them credit for keeping me on the straight and level here and not getting too disappointed about what happened on Sunday. The joy of it has been some of the tears from my son and my friends, being able to kind of soothe them to a certain degree and say I did what I was trying to do, and it just didn’t work out.”

If Watson had held on and won the Open, he would have received an exemption to carry on playing in that championship for another 10 years. But with the Open organizers having an age cap of 60, next year’s event at St. Andrews is likely to be his last. Unless he wins it.

Watson said he spoke to Royal and Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson about the age limitation and agree with it.

“It’s sensible, you have to give the young kids a chance to play, and that’s the whole reason behind it,” he said. “Get the old fogeys out of there, and give the young kids a chance to get in there and shine.”

Now he’ll be grouped with two more former Open champions, Greg Norman and Sandy Lyle, as he sets out to win the Senior title he captured in 2003, ’05 and ’07 – aiming to keep up his streak of winning every other year.

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