Life lessons at The Open from Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo


Jul 17, 2015; St. Andrews, Fife, SCT; Sir Nick Faldo playing in his last Open at St. Andrews bids farewell to the fans from the Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole during the second round of the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews – Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Open Championship recalled an era of golf that embraced good manners and sportsmanship, embodied by Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo.

I watched Tom Watson begin his second round at The Open Championship and I watched him finish it.  There was a remarkable continuity to his day.

With his son on the bag Watson began his round by embracing his wife, Linda, as he walked to the first tee and he and Linda again embraced when he concluded his round.  Finishing at 10-over par and at the bottom of the field, Watson brought to a close more than four decades of appearances at The Open with a  3-putt and a courtly bow to a cheering gallery.  What a show!

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Watson and another finalist at this year’s Open, Sir Nick Faldo, remind me that golf is a gentle game where good manners and sportsmanship are valued, where adhering to the “spirit of the game” builds a quality of character that’s evident in the youngest junior golfers (who sometimes stumble over each other to hold the pro shop door open for me) and among recreational golfers who compliment each other with “good shot” and console each other with “good effort” even in the heat of the battle.

Jul 17, 2015; St. Andrews, Fife, SCT; Tom Watson walks to the second hole tee box during the second round of the 144th Open Championship at St. Andrews – Old Course. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Nowhere was that spirit more evident than when Ernie Ells — who prevented the round from being suspended at the 17th in order to allow Watson to finish his farewell St Andrews round — and Brandt Snedeker, Watson’s playing partners, putted out and stepped back, giving Watson center stage for what turned out to be a 3-putt finish in the dark.

Well, perhaps it was equally evident in the faces of Matt Kuchar and Graeme McDowell and Tom Lehman and the other players lining Watson’s walk off the 18th, as they bade the old man of the game farewell.

And from Sir Nick — certainly not the most personable or popular golfer on tour — playing his final round with an injured hand, there are enduring lessons about persistence, focus, and diligent attention to excellence.

We need not all be “nice guys and girls” like Tom Watson in order to leave a positive legacy when we make our exits and last September Watson wasn’t uniformly embraced by the team he led into the 2014 Ryder Cup.  But then Sir Nick has also endured his fair share of Ryder Cup slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as well in 2008. Need I point out that in 2008 the Europeans suffered a humiliating loss that the Americans also experienced in 2014?

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  • The Open moves now to its weekend showdown and Sunday finale, the weather an ever-present threatening spoiler.  Second round conditions were tough and things are going to be tougher for the third round.  We’ll get to see if Dustin Johnson can maintain the pace he’s set.  We’ll get to watch Danny Willett and Paul Lawrie challenge DJ’s slender lead.

    We’ll get to see if Jordan Spieth‘s game plane will hold up — it’s not the first time the Texan has gone into the weekend facing a deficit, and ended on the top on Sunday.  But Spieth took a tumble down the board on Friday.  He has some distance to travel now and only 36 holes in which to do it and it’s way too early to count him out.

    Although he will finish his 2nd round early on Saturday morning we will likely not see Tiger Woods this weekend and his exit from the 2014 Open Championship doesn’t hold the promise of glory and waves of nostalgia evoked by Tom Watson’s and Sir Nick’s farewells.  My personal favorites, Victor Dubuisson and Alexander Levy, have also retired from the field, as has the promising young Byeong-Hun An.  Their opportunities to hoist the Claret Jug will wait for another year.

    But Paul Dunne, Jordan NiebruggeRomain LangasqueOllie Schniederjans and Ashley Chesters will be competing for the low amateur medal and giving us a peek at golf’s next generation!

    Next: The Open - With an Eye On The Weather