Just one golfer whose initials are TW made the cut at the Greenbrier Classic last week and his name wasn't Tiger Woods. Tom Watson played all 72 holes, again showing that he is the timeless golfer. No wonder he titled his recent instructional book The Timeless Swing. The other TW, meanwhile, missed the cut.
Watson is 62, and this week will try to win his first U.S. Senior Open Championship. The tournament starts Thursday at the Indianwood Golf and Country Club's Old Course, 60 kilometres north of Detroit. Watson said the course feels to him like a links. That could be an omen. Watson has won five Open Championships. Every Open is played on a links.
Just three years have passed since Watson, then 59, came within a shot of pulling off a golf story for the ages. He had to par the final hole at Turnberry Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland, to win.
Watson's last approach shot, however, bounced just too much, and went through the 18th green. The hole was cut toward the back of the green. Watson needed to get down in two to win by a shot over Stewart Cink. He chose to putt the ball up and over a slight rise to the green, rather than chip it. The ball finished 10 feet past the hole and then Watson, who had been holing putt after putt, made a squeamish, anxious stroke.
The ball never looked like dropping. Watson tapped in for bogey and was then in the mandated four-hole playoff for the claret jug. It was as if all the air went out of the Open, and Watson. His legs appeared to give out, and Cink won the playoff easily. Watson was never really in it.
Still, Watson had articulated a memorable Open. He demonstrated to geezer golfers everywhere that it is possible to retain one's form, and, on certain courses, to neutralize the advantages more powerful, younger golfers have. Astride a links, especially when it is playing fast and firm, a golfer can all but throw the yardage book out. The book that matters most is the one that a player carries in his mind from experience and an appreciation of links golf. Watson was drenched in links golf.
Now, as much as Indianwood might remind Watson of a links, it remains an inland course. The rough is high and thick, which will put a demand on driving during the U.S. Senior Open. The tone in Watson's voice after a practice session indicated that he relishes the challenge. Meanwhile, he also relishes the characteristics of a links that the course does have.
"It has the look of a links course with the way the dunes, the way they are with the fescue on it," Watson said. "There's a lot of up and down to it, a lot of side hill lies, things like that. Yes, it's very much like that."
Whether or not Watson wins his first U.S. Senior Open, he will be at Royal Lytham & St Annes next week for the Open Championship. He'll be on an authentic links there.
The American knows exactly what to do with his ball on every shot, and he's demonstrated he can still do it at his age. The timeless golfer with the timeless swing may be in the autumn of his career, but come summer on a links, he remains a golfer to watch.
Amend that, Watson is always a golfer to watch, because of who he is, what he has done, and what he can still do. This TW is some golfer, and has been for, oh, 40 years.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein