Watson folds, Cink wins British Open

Tom Watson defies age assumptions for nearly four days. Stewart Cink wins his first Open championship.

Matt Dunham/AP
Stewart Cink of the US holds the trophy after winning a playoff following the final round of the British Open Golf championship, at the Turnberry golf course, Scotland, Sunday.

For three days and 17 holes of golf, Tom Watson was as good as he's ever been.

The five-time winner of the British Open had AARP card-carriers everywhere sitting on their edge of their Barcaloungers Sunday.

Then, Watson missed an 8-foot  putt on the 18th hole that would have made him - at 59 - the oldest golfer ever to have won any major championship.

And, quickly, the wheels started to come off. "Just one bad shot after another," admitted Watson in the post-tournament press conference.

After a four-hole playoff with Stewart Cink, Watson lost by six strokes, and the quest to rewrite the history books was over.

Cink, the 2009 British Open champion, put himself into contention by making four birdies on the back nine, including a long putt on the same 18th hole that was Watson's undoing.

Other than his own family and friends, Mr. Cink probably didn't have a lot of fans rooting for him to topple Watson.

For nearly four days, Watson played as if it were 1983 - the last time he won the British Open.

After the first round, Watson commented: "I think there was some spirituality out there ... the serenity of it was pretty neat."

Watson is a golfer who is known for his tenacity, for the balance and rhythm of his swing, and for his unflappable demeanor. He's also a man of principle. In 1991, he resigned from the Kansas City Country Club, where he'd grown up playing, when a Jewish applicant was denied membership.

Would a Watson win have been that big a deal? Golfers, after all, have long careers relative to other professional athletes. And Watson knows this course and excels at the links-style golf; he's won the British Open five times.

But it's rare for a golfer over the age of 45 to win a major tournament, especially one as demanding as the British Open. The oldest winner of the British Open was 48-year-old Julius Boros.

Jack Nicklaus, the man who has won the most majors of all time (18), won his last major at the age of 46. That was 23 years ago.

In 1977, Watson beat Nicklaus at Turnberry, Scotland, on this same golf course in the famous "Duel in the Sun."

It was appropriate then, that Nicklaus sent Watson a text mesaage before today's round at Turnberry in Scotland: "Win one for the ‘old folks.' "

This Sunday, it wasn't to be.

But maybe, just maybe, a few AARP members have been inspired by Watson's defiance of assumptions about age, and are dusting off their clubs and giving it another go.

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