Tom Watson and the 2009 Open
Not even a hint of a fairytale this time for Tom Watson, who missed the cut after two rounds of the Open at St Andrews. Perhaps the veteran champion will use his unwanted free time to relive his dramatic near-miss in 2009, which so nearly ended in one of the greatest sports storied of all time.
He hardly needs to read a book to know what happened, of course. Others not so familiar with every detail from Turnberry a year ago could do much worse than pick up a copy of Robert Winder’s Open Secrets: The Extraordinary Battle for the 2009 Open.
Winder, a former literary editor of the Independent and author of two novels, made his first venture into sports writing in the 1990s, culminating in an acclaimed book, Hell For Leather: A Modern Cricket Journey, that was based on the 1996 cricket World Cup in Pakistan.
He could not have picked a better year in which to turn his attentions to golf. Winder followed every turn of the 2009 Open championship, from the qualifying process through to the 72nd hole of the four rounds, unaware of course that it would end with Watson facing an eight-foot putt on the final green to become not only the oldest winner of the Open but to top the all-time list of champions with six victories.
Everyone knows the ending, in which Watson missed by inches the putt that would have given him par for the hole and held off the challenge of Stewart Cink. Yet Winder has the writing skills to make it come alive again.
Winder is strong in resisting the urge to romanticise Watson, who had undergone a hip replacement only weeks earlier and had been matched to a pre-determined script by the English media. Watson insisted he had earned the right to be in a play-off with Cink through the quality of his drives and Winder makes a full acknowledgement.
He also challenges the idea, popular in golf in particular, that practice can eliminate bad luck. Watson’s downfall at the final hole was brought about by a run of the ball that was purely down to chance, pitching at the front of the green but hitting a piece of firm ground that caused the ball to accelerate beyond the hole and off at the back, ultimately costing him a shot and taking the match into a play-off.
Winder, whose diverse range also includes Bloody Foreigners, a best-selling history of immigration to Britain, is a fine, descriptive writer and among non-technical golf books Open Secrets is regarded as one of the best.
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