Amidst the pouring rain and howling wind yesterday, and of course those chasing each other at the top of the leaderboard at The Open Championship at St Andrews yesterday, there was of course the subplot of Tom Watson’s and possibly Nick Faldo’s final round at this great tournament. While Faldo finished in the early afternoon sunshine, Watson got the sunset finish at The Home of Golf.
It was not the fairytale finish for either golfer but they were possibly not expecting that, sport is sport and you do not always get the swan song that you envisage – ask Ronan O’Gara and Steven Gerrard just to name a couple! Watson added a disappointing 8-over 80 to his opening round of 76 in very trying conditions. He remains one of the finest golfers every to pick up a golf club and his longevity in the game will be tough to equal, even in the age of gym going golfers with nutritionists, personal trainers, psychologists, swing coaches, putting coaches, short game coaches…….the list goes on. Faldo fought back on Day 2 to post a 1-under par 71 but the damage was done after his opening round of 11-over 83.
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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
My abiding memory of Watson was The 2009 Open Championship where he was dealt a horrible piece of golfing luck at the 72nd hole of that Championship when a sweetly struck second shot bounded through the green instead of nestling close to the hole resulting in a bogey and 4 hole play-off to decide the victor. A lot of people, including me, sometimes forget who won that year at Turnberry. It was Stewart Cink. Credit to the golf fans for lingering to give Tom the reception he deserved in the gathering gloom yesterday evening, his ill-fated Ryder Cup 2014 Captaincy apart he is a model professional and we will go a long way to see somebody like him on the fairways at The Open over the coming years.
John Daly and Nick Faldo. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas Alexander Faldo (hope I got that right!) was one of my favourite golfers, I started playing golf in the early 1990s and he was the best player in the world at the time – along with a very good supporting cast including Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Bernhard Langer, Curtis Strange, Hale Irwin, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle…..I could go on! Faldo’s strive for perfection did set the standard for the modern golfer – analysing every possible facet of the game to become the best. He completed remodeled an effective golf swing with David Leadbetter in the late 1980s and reaped the rewards with many Majors to follow.
My memories of Faldo are many – 1992 at Muirfield was great, The 1996 Masters was somewhat surreal in how he broke Norman down starting the final round 6 shots off the Australian, while 1995 at Oak Hill in the Ryder Cup was my favourite hands down. How an out-of-form Faldo managed to battle back to beat Curtis Strange in the Singles I’ll never know. He did a lot that Sunday in Rochester to set Europe on their way to victory, with Philip Walton holing the winning putt, the scenes with Seve at the end were very special indeed. Having said all that, the fact that Faldo managed to fit into his 1987 Pringle jumper to play what could well be his final Open Championship round is probably the most impressive feat of all!!
So, The Open Championship has lost 2 of its greatest ever players. I’m sure they will return, Faldo likely to be in the commentary booth for years to come. What is in store for Watson? I’m not sure but he’ll definitely contend in The Senior Open in the future!