By Jennifer Myers
I wonder how long people will be referring to last week’s British Open, as “one for the ages.” They could also refer to it as “one for the aged!” Tom Watson’s near miss of a 9th Open Championship (as the Brits prefer to call it, and as it rightly should be by virtue of its longevity) was a rallying cry to all those golfers who have toiled for so many years at their game, but had given up hope as for ever getting it back to where they had it twenty years ago. Watson proved that on the right course, with the right strategy, low scores were still possible. He didn’t have the longest drives of anyone there, but they were long enough, thanks in part to the hard-packed terrain of the Scottish coastline. He did a better job than most on knowing where to land his tee shots so that the ball would take the bounces and rolls and end up in a decent lie, sometimes being on the opposite side of the fairway of where he had landed. That was something that could be attributed to experience, which was Watson’s most valuable asset those four days at Turnberry.
For most of those four days, Watson’s putter was working about as well as it ever did, belying the days when short putts were his nemesis. It was only on Sunday that the smooth-flowing swing wasn’t there, accounting for missed birdie putts that would have made that 8-footer for par on the 18th hole a moot point. Yet if he had made that par-putt on the 18th, the 138th Open Championship really would have been one for the ages, and we wouldn’t have to talk about what might have been.
I would say that saddest part of Watson’s near miss in the history books was the decision to hit an 8-iron instead of a 9-iron into the 18th green on the 72nd hole. His game plan, experience, and smooth swing with his irons had faced the gauntlet of Turnberry and had carried him through, until that last approach. It was really that, more so than the putt, that put him back a stroke and into a tie with Stewart Cink. That 8-iron, and the unpredictable bounces of a links course, set up a chip from the back of the green. If he had hit a 9-iron, it would have landed short, bounced on, and made for a relatively easy two-putt. Game over. Everybody goes home with a smile on their face and warm memories of the day. Instead, a mentally and physically tired 59-year old man had to face a four-hole play off against one in his prime, hungry for his first major championship. And he just didn’t have anything left in the gas tank.
The good news though, is that Stewart Cink was the winner. Ranked 33rd going into The Open Championship, Cink makes the third winner of a major in 2009 outside of the top 30. (Angel Cabrera was 69th going into the Masters, and Lucas Glover was 71st before the U.S. Open.) This was no fluke either. Cink made some changes in his game and was well prepared for this tournament. One of the first things he did was put his belly putter away. He had been very adept on short putts with the belly putter, but struggled with mid-range putts. Going to a conventional putter put more feel for distance in his hands. He also had help in switching back to a conventional putter from Dr. Morris Pickens, the same sports psychologist who helped Lucas Glover.
Cink also took a page in preparation from Tom Watson, by playing rounds at Irish links courses before The Open. He played rounds at Lahinch, Ballybunion and Doonbeg. His swing coach, Butch Harmon, told him on the way to the first tee on Sunday, “You’re playing as well or better than anyone in this tournament, and I want you to believe in that.”
Even though Stewart Cink won The Open, it will probably be remembered more by most as the Open that Tom Watson barely missed, especially since most of the footage used by ABC during The British Open was shot with BBC equipment, so we saw a lot more of Ross Fisher’s round than we did of Stewart Cink’s!
Quote of the Day: “You wonder if the wind is making a whistling noise when it blows by him.” – Paul Azinger, on the very slender Chris Wood, during The British Open telecast.
The IWGA Mid-Amateur Championship will be at French Lick Resort on Aug. 9th and 10th. Eligible players are females who have reached the age of 25 by August 4th, 2009. Registration deadline is July 27th. To register, call the Indiana golf office at (800) 779-7271 or go online at http://iga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/iga9/schedule/index.htm
Vigo County Golf Leagues
First Financial Rea Park Ladies 9-hole — Standings: Shepard’s Gas 476, VFW No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary 455, VFW No. 2 Ladies Auxiliary 384, Bratt Animal Hospital 365. Low gross: Myrna Handley and Verla Talkington 49. Low net: Barb Kelley 34. Chip-ins: Kay Gard (6), Phyllis Pestoff (5), Levon Garrison (5).
Paitson’s Eastend Ladies — Standings: Natalie’s Consignment Furniture 469, Sandy’s Touch of Magic 452, Otis Elevator 448, Turner Coach 448, Coaches Corner 442, Krock Racing 424, Baesler’s Market 423, Advanced Chiropractic 414. Low gross: Brenda Ellis 40. Low net: Glenda McVeigh, Iva Montgomery 29. Birdies: Jimma Lou Comer (12). Chip-ins: Brenda Ellis (15), Faye Lynn King (18). Play of day: Karen Cox (longest putt).
Ft. Harrison Ladies 9-hole — Low gross: Lucy James. Low net: Betty McKee. Low putts: Sharon Nicoson, Betty McKee. Play of day: Effie Giffel, Anita Cheek, Mary Silvers, Helen Ruhl, Vivian Miemeyer. Chip-in: Clarena Mathews, Silvers, McKee.
Mark’s Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: Watts Farms 232, C&E; Environmental 190, Dew Drop Inn 186, Vigo Bowl 180, Sycamore Chevrolet 13, Old National Trust 158, Tabco 151, Mattingly Collision 150. Low gross: Bill Turner 36. Low net: Don Sublet 29. Closest to pin: JIm Strecklin (2). Longest drive: Al Newman (18). Longest putt: Lee Higginbotham (17).
Terre Haute Savings Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: Complete Kitchen and Bath 116, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 100, Pizza Hut 98, Page’s Market 82, TH Savings Bank 78, Paitson Bros. 75, Lough Bros. 72, SMC 65. Low gross: Jim Gormong 37. Low net: Frank Hoffman 32. American Division standings: Tabco 109, Poplar Flower Shop 103, Spring Clean Car Wash 92, Salt of the Earth 87, Gurman Container 82, VFW No. 972 63, Baesler’s Market 58. Low gross: Elmer Grizzel 39. Low net: Earl Cromwell 30.
Rea Park Tuesday 18-hole — Low gross: Sharon Horrall 81. Low net: Kathleen Atterson 64. Birdies: Stephanie Meyer (1), Carolyn Hyde (3), Sandy Lanke (4), Shawn Durand (6), Sheri Harden (10), Linda Pair (12), Horrall (14). Chip-ins: Lanke (4), Virginia Anderson (8), Laury Burris (8), Shelva Gaither (10), Harden (10), Pair (12), Mary Jean Petty (13).
Idle Creek Terminal Sports and Spirits Wednesday Evening — First place team (29): Zach Wilhoyte, John Love. Second place team (30, tie) — Denise Rowlett and Matt Love; Cliff Carrithers and Matt Love. Longest putt: Rowlett. Closest to pin: Rowlett (3, 9).
Idle Creek Ladies Tuesday Morning Scramble — First place team (41): Debbie Holcomb, Mary Brannen, Susie Colligan. Second place team (42): Cathy Brannen, Candy Lovvron, Kathy Booe. Longest putt: C.Brannen (5).
Idle Creek Home Builders Tuesday Evening — Low gross: Kurt Jones 38. Low net: Mitch Lankhaar 29. Longest drive: John Eller. Closest to pin: Charlie Smith (3), Brian Cottom (9).