Is Golf a Sport for Old People?
At 59, Tom Watson almost became the oldest winner in the history of the Grand Slam golf tournaments at the recent British Open. He even had a putt on the green of hole no. 18 golf course of Turnberry, in Scotland, to see him succeed this amazing feat.
Alas for him, the American, who hoped to win the 6th British Open of his career, the first since… 1983, missed the victory which eluded him in the playoff which he lost sharply against his compatriot Stewart Cink, aged 36.
The ride of Tom Watson, who had had his hip replaced last October, has caused a sensation on the golf planet already been amazed, a year earlier, to have seen the Australian Greg Norman (53) approach a triumph, still at the British Open (he had finally finished 3rd). Nor are we forgetting that at Augusta’s last Masters, the 48-year-old American Kenny Perry was in a position to win for a long time before falling to the finish against the Argentinean Angel Cabrera.
A Titanium and Ceramic Hip
If Watson had managed to wield the Claret Jug, the trophy of the British Open, he would have simply broken the record held by Julius Boros, winner in 1968 of the USPGA, the fourth Grand Slam tournament of the year at the “canonical” age of 48. And he would have done a lot better than his old rival, Jack Nicklaus, who, in 1986, put on the green jacket worn by The Master’s laureate at 46 years old.
In Turnberry’s press tent, many journalists cursed Stewart Cink for stealing such a beautiful story to tell. The Scottish public also expressed their deep disappointment that Watson’s crazy dream had flown away.
It remains to be seen whether for golf, the success of a man almost 60 years old, who walks with a titanium and ceramic hip, would have been good news for the sport. Because to see Tiger Woods not pass the cut of a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in his career and to witness Tom Watson’s triumph would have been, for sure, rather funny, is the least one can write.
To replace 154 young colleagues, except Cink, Watson simply managed to take advantage of his game science on such a particular path as a link. At Turnberry, which Tom Watson knows by heart for having won there in 1977, one of his five British Open, one plays almost feet in the water, so the sea is close. In these extreme circumstances, where the bursts follow one another, hitting the ball with all force was too risky. Seeking to control it and to direct it was the absolute necessity. The power was no longer of any use, like the drivers who were supposed to drive it, who didn’t leave the competitors ‘ bags too long. Make way for the shackles. Give the old foxes some links like Tom Watson.
But after what looked like a remake of the movie “Cocoon”, can golf still pretend it’s a “real” sport? No, Of course, if we compare it to other disciplines like tennis, where it would be unimaginable to see Björn Borg, at 53, today, poking the pion at Roger Federer, 27. Borg would not only be technically dominated, but he would also be physically crushed by the youth of his opponent.
The Customers, the Forces of the French Golf
“Golf is not a sport, but a game of balls,” said Denis Lalanne, who wrote about its exploits for a long time in the team’s columns. Accept this definition. A ball game in which the older players have a chance against the younger players, like chess or billiards, but which, unlike chess or billiards, is capable of arousing a popular enthusiasm that only a sport is capable of engendering
Watson’s rebirth in Turnberry was indeed the television event of the weekend in the United States and Great Britain. Because it was impossible to leave your screen without knowing the end of the drama. “It hurts my guts,” said the American after his defeat. And that’s exactly what we felt in front of our TV. And there’s only sport to turn us upside down like this.
There was something moving to see Watson try to go back to the time of his prestigious career. But after all, if we talk about ex-football players, tennis players or basketball players, we never talk about ex-golf players as if golf was a lifetime sport for a professional. Not so long ago, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player, other legends of yesterday, we’re still competing with Tom Watson for the same Grand Slam tournaments. While for us amateurs, golf is more like an “end of life” sport to accompany our retreats pleasantly. In France, according to statistics published in 2007 by the French Golf Federation, there were, in fact, 114,000 out of 388,000 graduates, aged 60 and over. This is almost a third of the” driving forces ” of discipline.
A few weeks from his 60th birthday, and after this cruel twist of fate, Tom Watson is still not done with his champion dreams. In 2010, he announced, he will be at the 139th British Open in Saint-Andrews which should be the last, in principle, since the organizers do not allow the presence of competitors over 60 years old. Italian Matteo Manassero, 16 years old and three months old, who shared Watson’s part in the first two days at Turnberry, hopes to be part of the party as well. Manassero finished in a stunning 13th place, signing the last card of 69 that would have been enough for Tom Watson to triumph. As such, golf can also be a (very) young sport.