Watson's Open hopes go down the Cink
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2009 British Open | Round Four | 20 Jul 2009
While Cink’s win was certainly deserved, there is little doubt that a majority of the golfing public wanted the 59-year-old Watson to win and perhaps even Cink, amidst his finest golfing moment, will feel guilty in denying the game one of its greatest moments.
Cink’s victory however should be remembered for what it was, a brilliant display of Links golf. He was there to take advantage of Watson’s late stumble and showed great character and strength to birdie the final hole to earn a chance in extra time. He played the four playoff holes in 2 under par so there is little denying his right to the Claret Jug.
“I’m engulfed by the joy,” said Cink after his round. “I can understand the mystique that came really close to developing here but in the end it is a tournament to see who lasts the longest. With a winning score of 2 under it is a survival test. I don’t know what else to say but I don’t feel ashamed or disappointed but feel as pleased as punch to have won.”
“I am also very proud of the way Tom Watson has played. He showed us what a great game we all play. We all thought Jack Nicklaus had hung the moon when he won the Masters in 1986 but this is 13 years beyond that so that in itself says alot about golf.”
Cink’s 72nd hole 14 foot birdie ensured Watson, playing three groups behind, needed a par at the last to secure his 6th Open Championship and to become, by 13 years, the oldest winner of a major championship.
Watson appeared to have done everything right when his hybrid club from the tee found the fairway and his 8 iron approach looked to be right at the flag when in the air. It took a big forward hop however and although it finished only just off the back edge, the lie was awkward. Watson, playing the percentages, decided to putt. The ball ran 8 feet past and when his putt for the title did not even reach the hole, you could almost hear the air escaping from his body.
Watson picked himself up off the canvas for one last bid for the most unlikely of victories.
His tee shot at the first playoff hole was perfect. So too was Cink’s but having hit an iron from the tee he was some 30 yards short of his opponent. When Cink’s approach found the right hand greenside bunker the door was open for Watson. His 5 iron was in his own words ’a little chubbie’ and found the front bunker and when he failed to get up and down to match Cink’s par his bold challenge was all but extinguished.
Watson produced a miraculous up and down for par at the second of the four playoff holes but it soon became clear there was only one likely outcome. Cink won by six shots, turning a day of high drama into an almost anti-climactic end.
“It tears at your gut and it’s not easy to take. But it wasn’t to be,” said Watson. “I put myself in a position to win and didn’t do it on the last hole. But this ain’t a funeral. I congratulate Stewart and he did what he had to do to win. I didn’t give him much competition.”
Watson’s wasn’t the only hard luck story on a day where Turnberry once again played hardball. At the end of day one, 50 players were under par but by Sunday afternoon only four players were in the red.
Ross Fisher was first to make his move on the final day when with two early birdies he had moved into the lead at 5 under. Fisher’s challenge fell apart with a disastrous quadruple bogey at the 5th and he eventually finished tied for 13th.
Retief Goosen double bogeyed the 15th to lose his chance although he did bounce back with an eagle at the 17th to finish in a share of 5th.
With just four holes to play three players including Australia’s Mathew Goggin, American Tom Watson and England’s Lee Westwood were tied at 2 under. They then had a one shot lead over Stewart Cink and Chris Wood, the latter posting the equal best round of the day (67) 90 minutes earlier to move to 1 under.
Wood’s bogey at the final hole appeared costly at the time and with the benefit of hindsight it is now even more costly. A par at the final hole would have earned him a playoff place just twelve months after finishing 5th as an amateur at Royal Birkdale in his Open Championship debut. Mind you Wood’s Open record is rather impressive, a 5th and 3rd place finish in two starts.
Westwood was playing ahead of the final pairing of Watson and Goggin and with bogeys at the 15th and 16th he too appeared to have lost his chance. A great second to the 17th set up a 15 foot eagle opportunity but despite the miss he was back tied for the lead with Watson and Cink. Westwood produced a stunning shot from the deep left hand fairway bunker at the last to somehow reach the green but three putted and his winning chance was gone.
Goggin, who had done so well to be sharing the lead with four to play bogey the 15th and 16th although his bogey at the 15th was desperately unlucky after his tee shot ran just past the hole and trickled into the back bunker but only 15 feet from the flag. He was unable to get up and down and then bogeyed the 16th. Goggin eventually finished in a share of 5th, his best finish in a major by some 31 places.
Watson went one ahead when found the back edge of the green at the 17th and two putted for birdie before the agonising bogey at the last.
Stewart Cink may have won the Open but there is little doubt who won the hearts and undying admiration of those present and those around the world who witnessed his heroics. Tom Watson, the class act that he is, was as gracious in defeat as he was in his on course brilliance.
From a 16-year-old amateur, Matteo Manassero, finishing in a share of 13th to a 59 year old so nearly winning, the 2009 Open Championship had it all. Turnberry displayed several different faces this week as the conditions changed but she once again proved what a high quality test of Open Championship golf she offers.
The next best of the Australians after Goggin was Robert Allenby who finished 52nd, Stuart Appleby was 65th and Daniel Gaunt 73rd.
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