“It would have been a hell of a story”, a weary, disappointed, but gracious Tom Watson said when it was all over.   Watson had literally been on the brink of history when he lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink in the British Open on Sunday.ASTd95T4

I like many fans was glued to the television set watching Tom Watson flirt with history.  A chance to become the oldest winner of a major golf tournament.   And he never folded – until the very end.   Watson’s improbable march toward immortality made it possible for me to stay tuned all the way through a golf tournament that did not include Tiger Woods.   Woods shockingly missed the cut on Friday.   But two-days later it didn’t matter that the world’s best golfer wasn’t in it.

Normally, I don’t watch golf very long when Tiger is not involved.  But something inside me said stay tuned anyway.  Maybe the 59 year-old Tom Watson atop the leader-board was an omen that for once maybe something special was brewing, and that fate had dictated that Woods had to be completely out of the picture to allow us to completely enjoy it.

All the way to the fourth and final round and the 18th and last hole, Watson, a five-time winner of the British Open was in the lead.   I held my breath, hoping that nothing would interfere with a magical storybook ending that all of us sports fans dream about.

In the end, the very end, the clock struck midnight for Watson and he missed an eight-foot par put that would have clinched a record setting victory at The Open.   The four-hole playoff that followed against Stewart Cink was anti-climactic.  Watson wilted badly, perhaps grieving the missed put on 18, perhaps finally giving in to his age.  Whatever the reason, the dream was over.   Stewart Cink won the prestigious Claret Jug.

But after my own disappointment for Watson dissipated, it was clear that while Watson didn’t win, his effort and grace made it worth watching.   Sometimes a loss can still be a win.  And most certainly in this case it was.  Tom Watson and all of his fans “won” one of the best viewing experiences sports can offer.   Indeed the 2009 British Open was one hell of a story.

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