Golf should learn from inspiration of Watson

Filed under: by: golf clubs showcase

THE debate raged on in south Ayrshire bars and in national phone-ins long after Tom Watson had fled the scene of his flirtation with history.

Was Watson sport's greatest inspiration? Or was he golf's greatest embarrassment?

Inevitably, when the emotions had eased and the awe dissipated at how a man six weeks away from his 60th birthday could come within one putt of winning the game's greatest prize the inquest turned to what Watson's performance said about golf.

How could a man with an artificial hip who hardly plays competitively these days beat 154 of the world's best golfers, including 14-major winner Tiger Woods?

How could they allow him to render all their gym work and coaching sessions and hours and hours of practice essentially worthless?

It could not happen in football or rugby or tennis. Or even in a non-physical sport such as snooker these days where dinosaurs such as former world champions Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry rarely trouble the young guns.

Yes, mature competitors have excelled in sports before and as Watson came up the 18th at Turnberry with just a par needed to become the oldest Open champion in history there was much scrambling through the record books.

The great jockey Lester Piggott won the American classic Breeders' Cup Mile at 54, but he did have the best horse by some distance, Royal Academy, beneath him.

Stanley Matthews played in the old First Division at 50 and for England at 42.

Boxer George Foreman won a world heavyweight title at 45. And, if you cared to stretch credibility, then Sweden's Oscar Swahn donned his boots and rifle holster to win the gold medal in the Running Deer shooting team at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm at the age of 64. Not exactly a mainstream pastime however.

Essentially, Watson's achievement goes to the core of that well-worn golfing adage: 'The most important distance in golf is between the ears.'

Turnberry is a thinking man's golf course. At 7,204 yards it is short by modern standards but it cannot be overpowered. Not when the crosswinds blow. It has to be negotiated with patience and precision. By playing intuitive links golf, the sort most modern golfers rarely play these days.

It is why Mark Calcavecchia, Juan Angel Jimenez and Retief Goosen, all past 40, also occupied elevated positions on the leaderboard for much of the weekend.

Many of today's golfers, especially in America, are weaned on target golf. Hit it high over manicured real estate and land it soft. It is golf by numbers. By yardage chart. Essentially boring.

Or they play on courses such as Augusta National, which for all its beauty is a beast requiring such big hitting that the Watsons have no chance.

Watson admitted as much, adding that even St Andrews contains one hole where he cannot reach the fairway off the tee.

As such Turnberry was a fluke, perhaps the one course on the major rota where Watson had a realistic opportunity. It is why golf's organisers should resist calls to change their exemption rules on the basis of one remarkable performance, even if Watson will be barred from playing the Open after next year.

Watson was competitive but there were plenty of fifty-somethings who were not, such as Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle, who as past champions are exempt from qualifying but who essentially take the place of a hungry youngster and will do so until they reach 60.

Golf needs to look at the way it has skewed the sport in favour of power. It needs more Turnberrys and less hitting fests.

Watson shone a light on what golf and sport so often fails to see.

"This ain't a funeral, you know," said Watson, cracking the ice with a grin as reporters tiptoed into his post-tournament press conference, not wanting to intrude as he sat mulling how he had lost what should have been his sixth Open.

You cannot imagine too many of today's sportsmen wearing their disappointment with such grace and charm. Impeccably courteous. Amiable. Accessible. Anxious, though it was impossible, that his story should not detract from that of champion Stewart Cink. Watson at Turnberry took us back to a more chivalrous era when sport was not all about image and the sponsor's dollar.

There were no tears, because Watson has sport and life in perspective as you might expect from someone who went through a bitter divorce from his childhood sweetheart, who successfully dealt with a drinking problem and who ploughed through years when his game was afflicted by the dreaded 'yips'.

Yes, an old man was the story at Turnberry. But it was not embarrassing. It was truly inspiring.

This article reproduced from here


On July 21, 2009 at 5:54 AM , The Putt Guider said...

Great article and Interesting reading, Thank you. I had been (up until a year ago) searching for the solution to my putting problems (yips) for years, trust me I had tried & spent everything from side saddle, belly putters, hypnosis, even sticking my tongue out at address which whilst looking stupid also is very uncomfortable, as you have guessed extreme alterations work for a short period but sooner or later (normally sooner) the old grey matter takes over again and along come those negative thoughts that enter your head like a third party telling you “your not going to make this putt”.

One sunny day at The Belfry Golf Club a year ago I watched a guy on the putting green before his round practising two and three foot putts with a hoop six inches in front of the hole the hoop was only just big enough for the ball to pass and enter the hole, I was intrigued and watched from afar being careful for him not to think I was stalking him, every ball was hit at pace with such confidence that I had to approach him and ask why and what he was using. He replied “This is my little gem PUTT GUIDER she never leaves my side, and is the reason I have become a confident putter, it keeps me focused and interested in practising the most important and valuable shot in golf, the six to two foot putt. Whilst I am stood here practising a shot which I will play at least eighteen times today and will be 20% of my round” we looked around the putting green and he was right the rest of the competitors where on the range thrashing the driver.

Later at prize giving John as his name turned out to be picked up prizes for the best Nett score, best Gross score and least putts for his round, he didn’t win longest drive, but hey long drives don’t win competitions do they?. As soon as I got home, I searched in Google PUTT GUIDER and clicked on, my little gem arrived two days later. I cannot believe the difference she has made, I now spend more time on the putting green with PUTT GUIDER than I do my partner, which is a blessing in its self, more importantly my trophy cabinet is now full because I can now stand up to a short putt knowing I am going to drain it. It has been the best £9.99 I have spent, go buy one now and try it for yourself.