History was made on Sunday at Turnberry. But it was the wrong kind. An American walked on to British soil on Sunday and mounted a fantastic comeback. But it was the wrong American.
Stewart Cink finally shed the "so-close, but yet so far demons" and won his first Major Championship, but unfortunately for Cink, it doesn't really matter all that much. Sure, if your last name is spelled C-I-N-K it matters. If you are a buddy or pal of good ol' Stu from Huntsville, Alabama, it matters. But to the rest of us, all that matters about Stewart Cink is that he's not Tom Watson.
He's not the guy we climbed out of bed at 9:15am to see tee off. He's not the guy we were crouching for at 18 when he needed one more putt to etch his name into golf lore. It could have been anyone, I guess. Lee Westward, Matthew Goggin, Ross Fischer, or wunderkind Chris Wood. It would have been the same feeling. The same disappointment.
If he were any other guy, the story would be how Watson choked it away. We would be yelling and screaming about how he just couldn't handle the pressure. We would be asking, "How could a pro miss a par putt for the win like that". The words yips and "throwing up" would be typed on key-boards across America.
But we know that's not the way it should be remembered and it won't be. Cink could go on to win 20 more majors and still, no one would remember when he got his first. But it wouldn't take long to revive the memory. All someone would have to say was "Watson" and the scenes would be coming rushing back.
I know I'll never forget where I was when Tom Watson stood over a par putt to win the British at age 59. As for Cinks putt? I probably will forget about it by mid-week. Through no fault of his own, Stewart Cink sunk the most anti-climactic putt to win a major that we'll see for a long while. The balloon had been popped. Cink's was the only one still floating.
And that's the unfortunate nature of Golf. Any other week, Cink's story would be fantastic. At 16, he looked like a dead man. Cink had just bogeyed the second hole in his last three. A few holes behind him, destiny was doing just enough to remain dressed as Tom Watson. It looked like another close call.
He parred 17.
Ok, better now. But his caddy's back still reads Cink. Not enough W's in that name.
He birdied 18.
Hey, look at this. Stewart Cink is kind of back in it. But then again, charging to beat destiny is a lot different than charging for destiny.
Typically, destiny doesn't miss to many par putts.
Then, like a flash, destiny went home. Watson remembered he was 59 years old and missed a putt he would have made with the club handle between his teeth in any of the first three rounds and then sprayed the ball all over Scotland in the playoff. A playoff is perhaps the worst place to suddenly loose your accuracy off the tee. And just like that a week of outstanding golf turned into a sleeper of a playoff.
A non-biased observer may have been able to see this coming. Heck, as disappointed as I was, I wasn't all that surprised when Watson missed his par-putt at 18. He had been struggling with the putting stroke all day. A confident Watson who couldn't miss one during the first three rounds became a hesitant Watson who couldn't make one on Sunday. He was plus 2 for the day and made only three birdies all day. He wasn't exactly robbed of the tournament. When you miss almost every birdie opportunity, theft becomes almost impossible. Two less missed opportunities and Watson is walking up 18 with a 3 shot lead and tears in his eyes (and yours). Don't believe me? Go DVR the ESPN Classic replay this week (it has to happen right?, I mean what do they have to show this week...Classic USFL?).
As I've written, people love (me included) to talk about a good choke. Heck, I'm still referencing Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell at the Masters from time to time. But in rare events, chokes are almost universally ignored. This one will be.
I think I know why, too. Golfers are typically figures that look like untouchable demi-gods on the tee. They hit it longer and straighter on there absolute worst day then you do on your absolute best. They read greens like its "Hop On Pop" or "The Cat in the Hat". They have wives that are gorgeous and children that look a lot more well-behaved then yours are. They are easier to connect with then a "regular athlete", but the connection is still quite fuzzy.
I don't think that was the case with Watson. I think every golfer saw a little bit of themselves in good old Tom this weekend. He was gracious, unassuming, and warm. He had as many wrinkles on his face as yours and looked like he could be playing with you at the club on Saturday mornings. He didn't have bulging muscles or toned triceps. He wasn't a pro athlete with a club and a tee. He was you. and you were him. When Tom missed that putt at 18, you knew exactly how he felt. He was obviously tired during the playoff and so were you. 22 holes is a lot for a guy pushing 60.
And just like you were last weekend, Watson was beaten by the young guy who just joined your club.
Nice guy, you think afterwards. He's got a lot to learn.
Note: I'll be on vacation until Monday, July 27th. Max Caster and Nick Malone will be holding down the fort as always. Enjoy the RBC Canadian Open next week. I'll be back for the Buick....Only four weeks until Major #4.