Watson and Cink in play-off
The greatest story ever told, certainly in golf, unbelievably had to have another chapter written tonight.
The greatest story ever told, certainly in golf and maybe in the whole of sport, unbelievably had to have another chapter written tonight.
At the age of 59, indeed only six weeks away from his 60th birthday, Tom Watson went into a four-hole play-off for The Open with fellow American Stewart Cink at Turnberry.
An amazing 32 years after his “Duel in the Sun” with Jack Nicklaus on this storied Ailsa Course at Turnberry, Watson, who had a hip replacement last October, looked all set to win a record-equalling sixth Claret Jug by one shot again.
But then his approach to the final hole ran just over the green and from there he putted eight feet past and missed the return.
He and Cink, who had birdied the hole half an hour earlier, finished on the two under par mark of 278, scoring 72 and 69 respectively.
As they prepared for the shoot-out, however, the English trio of Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Ross Fisher were all left to reflect on what might have been.
Westwood and Wood would have been in the play-off as well if they had parred the 18th, but the former three-putted for a 71 after 21-year-old Wood, trying to become the third youngest-ever winner 12 months after finishing fifth as an amateur, bogeyed it as well for a 67, having gone through the green like Watson.
As for Fisher, on the day he was waiting for news on whether he had become a father for the first time, he led by three after a dream start, but then had a nightmare eight on the fifth and fell away to 13th with a 75.
Fisher holed from 14 feet on the first and then chipped in at the next and with Watson bogeying the first and third he had gone from one behind to three in front.
But after pushing his tee shot to the short fourth and bogeying, worse – much worse – followed on the next.
In thick rough down the right he decided to have a thrash, moved it only a few feet and with his next attempt slashed it over the fairway and had to take a penalty drop.
His eight was a repeat of the score he took on the final hole last year. That dropped him from seventh to 39th and dealt a huge blow to his Ryder Cup hopes.
When he followed this one with bogeys at the seventh and eighth he was down to 14th and at six behind the Open-baby double celebration was put on ice.
Playing partner Westwood had dropped a shot on the fifth himself, but his response was brilliant – an 18-footer for a two at the 231-yard sixth and then an eagle putt of 15 feet on the long next.
He was two ahead and that was how it was at the turn after Watson, having made a two-putt birdie on the seventh, failed to get up and down from short right of the ninth green.
The clubhouse lead at this point was set at level par by Luke Donald, but Wood lowered that by one.
From six behind at the start he had drawn level with an eagle at the seventh and birdies on the eighth and 10th.
His chances were still alive when he came back from bogeys at the 13th and 14th with more birdies on 15 and 17, but going through the final green always looked likely to end his hopes.
Westwood’s bogey from the right-hand rough on the 10th was followed by Australian Mathew Goggin making birdie there and Watson’s 30-footer at the 175-yard 11th put the three of them level.
The next mistake came from Watson when, unlike Westwood, he could not save par from short of the 14th green and when Goggin, bunkered in two, bogeyed as well the Englishman had top spot to himself again.
Only for a moment, though. His tee shot to the 15th, where Thomas Levet had holed-in-one earlier, ran into the back bunker and he sent his recovery 20 feet past the flag.
Now the trio were two under – and it would have been a four-way tie had Cink not three-putted the 16th.
Goggin did precisely the same thing as Westwood on the 15th and when Westwood bogeyed again at the next after going over the green Watson was leading on his own once more for the first time since the opening hole.
That was only for minutes as well, though. First Cink rolled in a 14-footer on the last and then Westwood just missed an 18-foot eagle attempt at the 17th.
Cink’s putt ended Wood’s chances. However, having missed out last year on a Masters debut by one spot the instant compensation for the Bristol golfer was that he will be at Augusta next April.
So, with Goggin having bogeyed the 16th, Watson held the edge once more when he went just through the back of the 17th and chipped to within two feet for birdie.
So it all came down to the 18th. In 1977 Watson matched Nicklaus’s birdie to win. This time a par would do it, but he failed in that – and so the drama went on.
The play-off would be contested over four holes, the fifth, sixth, 17th and 18th, with sudden-death then used if the players were still tied.
In regulation both had played them in level par, Watson making par-par-birdie-bogey and Cink bogey-par-par-birdie.
Both found the fairway on the fifth this time around, but both also found greenside bunkers with their approach. Cink had the easier shot, splashed out and saved par from 10ft, but Watson left himself 60ft from the hole and could not produce another miraculous putt to save par.
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