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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tom Watson

We watch as Tom Watson, a 59 year old player, is allowed to compete in the same tournament as the best professionals in the world. In a major championship. The British Open.

After 1 round he is in first place with a blistering 5 under and everyone is polite. Tremendous accomplishment. And everyone is thinking.. he'll fade tomorrow. Instead, he shoots another great round of golf and is tied for the lead going into the weekend. He is 59!!! Tiger Woods, the OTHER golfer from Stanford, doesn't even make the cut!

Enter Round 3 yesterday, and the winds are typically savage. They humble the best players in the world. This'll be the day that Watson crumbles. He is 59!!! He had his hip replaced last year!!! But once again we saw yet another brilliant performance from Watson. On a day that few (try 5) golfers in the entire field could break par, Watson shoots one over and takes sole possession of first place after 54 holes.

If Tom Watson wins the British Open, it will be the #1 story of 2009 in all of sports. That is why we have to acknowledge it here on a football blog. When Nicklaus won at Augusta in 1986 at the age of 46, it shook the world. To put this in perspective, it was here at Turnberry THIRTY TWO YEARS AGO that Watson was busy fending off Nicklaus in an epic battle for a major championship. It is 2009. What is Watson doing here?! I'll tell you what he is doing- he is trying to make MORE history.

We have already seen three amazing feats. Can he hold it together and pull it off?


Motown Blue said...

Watson's performance is not only great for golf but professional sports as a whole in these times. The greed of PSLs, expanding the season talk, steroids in baseball, Manny Ramirez, all the criminal behavior displayed by professional athletes and then you have a true class act with Watson. Appreciate the way he goes about his business, the modesty, and sportsmanship.

What amazes me so much is his driving distance average of 296!! That's incredible! The putter I believe is the key for him so far with his ability to knock down the 20-40 footers.

Should be a treat to watch today.

Mitch said...

Thirty Two years ago it was dubbed "The Duel in the Sun" against Nicklaus. Today if a 59 year old pulls this off, this feat would absolutely be one of the most unbelievable stories ever. Maybe he plays like a guy pushing 60 and falls apart. I certainly hope not and will be rooting hard for him as he gets set to tee off. Go Tom, all the other "old geezers" are pulling for you.

Norm said...

Call me a cynic but Watson's performance this weekend is Exhibit A for my long running contention that golf is not a sport (and I define "sport" as any endeavor that requires a high degree of athleticism for success)

Think about it: In what other athletic endeavor could a 59 year old man step onto a field and hold his own against competitors in their 20s and 30s? Y'all know the answer is "None."

Don't get me wrong. What Watson has done this weekend is an amazing story. But it has been an amazing display of skill in what is essentially a game of skill (much like billiards or croquet.)

Mitch said...

These are not necessarily my views but I remember my daughter has a friend who wrote a paper on this very topic in college. Here is a part of it...

Having played golf competitively on many levels (High School and College (2003 Graduate), I bring what I consider a different view of golf. My views have developed from having played golf for many years and watching people succeed and fail.

Growing up in the time when football and soccer were cool and golfers were considered losers (that is pre-Tiger), I have constantly been posed the question is golf a game or a sport. So what is it?

When people think of sports: baseball, soccer, football, and basketball normally come to mind. And when people think of games: chess, monopoly, checkers, poker normally come to mind. So where does golf fit into this spectrum?

Well, if we take what most people consider sports, I believe the item consistent with all of them is that they are reactionary. When LeBron James, Michel Strahan & Mariano Rivera all participate in their respective profession, I strongly doubt that LeBron thinks about whether his shoulders are square when he shoots a 3-pointer. I would bet that Michael Strahan never thinks about whether he keeps his head up when trying to sack the quarterback. I doubt that Mariano Rivera worries about how far the catcher is from the pitcher's mound. They all just do it. It is reactionary.

Now, let's take a look at what people consider games. These games are not reactionary. You don't just touch a piece and move it in chess or checkers. You think about each move and its consequences. In monopoly, you don't always buy every piece of property that you land on. And playing 7-card stud you would not go all in on a 2 -7 off suit. You contemplate what you should do and then perform.

So what is golf a game or a sport? Do you think Tiger thinks about if his left elbow is bowed out or do you think he just clears his mind and swings? Does Mickelson worry about whether he keeps his head down when he strokes in the 5 footer for birdie after stuffing a wedge or does he just go through his routine and putt it in? Using the reactionary/non-reactionary distinction, golf is definitely a sport. The elite players don't worry about many of these things. It is completely reactionary. I think this is why children are such good putters. They don't think about whether it is going left or right, they just stand up and whack it in. But for most golfers, Golf is a game. They worry about the water left and then hit it into the water or hit it out of bounds right. It is not reactionary.

If you don't believe me, try this:

Take 5 golf balls and a trash can. Place the trash can 30 yards or some distance away from you. Now, try to throw the balls into the trash can. I would bet that after you have thrown a couple thinking about how far to throw it and what trajectory was needed, your mind clears and you start to make them into the trash can. You go from thinking about it to being reactionary. And I bet that if you try to make the game more reactionary, you will definitely improve!

So for you, is golf a sport or just a game?

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