In one day, the two guys who I was rooting for in the two events I love to watch both imploded. I’ve learned not to get to emotionally invested in what’s going on at a sporting event. I did that as a kid, and experienced both euphoria and despair following what my teams did.
In this job, I’m a “professional observer” and don’t really have any favorites. Too often guys I wanted to see do well turned out to be jerks when I went to talk with them. They could care less what you think. They’re not invested in you in the least. They’re invested in themselves.
Somehow though, I got involved with both Lance Armstrong and Tom Watson.
I’ve met both. Armstrong is a very focused, guarded guy who is smart and sharp. He has a reputation as a bad guy, but I haven’t seen it. Watson is friendly and glib, but always detached. He has people he’s close to but it’s always been obvious that while he’s a great player and a great champion, there’s a lot more to Tom Watson than just who he is as a golfer.
While Watson’s quest is over, Armstrong’s continues. Watson had a chance. In the middle of the 18th fairway on the final hole of the tournament with an 8 iron in his hand, a simple par makes him the oldest tournament winner in history. The fact that it was The Open championship made the story even bigger.
And it’s not as if Watson snuck up on anybody.
He shot an opening round 65 and was the leader at the end of each day. He openly said he thought he could win and wanted to. And he backed it up with solid play and some big putts. But with the Claret Jug sitting there, ready for his name for a 6th time, he couldn’t close the door.
I don’t have any problem with any shot he hit on 18. Except the last putt that could have won it. I know he’s Tom Watson and I know he’s won Majors in the past and might not need any advice. But his caddy needed to go over there and say something to him. Remind him that he is Tom Watson and go over there and make that putt. Give it a run, Knock it right in.
He could have used that, but it wasn’t to be found.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s a fantastic accomplishment and a story for the ages. Keep working, pick your spots, stay sharp and you can stay competitive, especially in a sport like golf. Watson shouldn’t feel anything but that he came up a bit short. He played 72 holes and was tied for the lead.
Yes he had a chance to win it and yes he really waved at that final putt. But that’s the only one EVERYBODY saw. He made and missed plenty others over 71 holes that one a few people saw.
Because he’s so competitive, Watson will beat himself up for a while. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be the great champion that he is. No matter the outcome, his legacy is secure. Paul Azinger said the win means more to Stewart Cink than it would to Watson. Maybe so but if he had won, the historical context would have been tough to gauge. The biggest accomplishment of the year? Of the decade? Of the last 40 years? It certainly would be part of that discussion. Certainly the biggest accomplishment in golf in recent memory.
Lance’s situation is a bit different.
Alberto Contador might have shown that he was the strongest climber in that stage. The Tour, over three weeks, usually identifies the strongest rider. And up to this point, it’s Contador, no question. That doesn’t mean it’s over for Lance. A fall, a mechanical problem, an indifferent climbing day and all of the sudden, Armstrong is part of the equation regarding the winner of “Le Tour.”
But it’s a fantastic accomplishment no matter what happens.
Armstrong, day after day, is legitimizing his seven Tour wins and is showing again, that age is just a number. He’s said he’ll probably be back for next year’s Tour but the fact that he’s competitive for this year is just amazing. He only decided to return a year ago. He’s at least 10 years older than just about every other competitor in the race. And yet he’s in second place.
His surge on Tuesday showed he’s still got some gas in the tank and could be a factor in the last couple of stages No matter. He again is showing that age is just a number.
Which make me want to go hit some balls.
And ride my bike