Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2009 [Print without images]

Friday, July 31, 2009
Epilogues


The idea that a 59-year-old man almost won the British Open still fries people's minds. Everybody I meet wants to talk about. There is even an ode to it -- in the style of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's "Casey at the Bat." It's by Alex Altman of Rancho Mirage, Calif., and reposted here by permission:

Watson at the Links
By Alex Altman

The outlook wasn't brilliant for a man of fifty-nine
In a field stacked with contenders still in bloom of youthful prime.
But when Watson striped a driver down the fairway at eighteen,
Eternal youth seemed for an instant more than just a dream.

On Thursday Tommy shocked the world by shooting sixty-five,
And Friday's rally from a dismal front nine kept our hopes alive.
A rollercoaster weekend had its share of ups and downs,
But through wind and rain and waist-high rough, Tom gave up no ground.

Seventy-one holes in the books with only one to play
And a simple par was all required for Tom to win the day.
But pars are never simple on Turnberry's fabled links,
And dropping just a single stroke would tie his score with Cink's.

On the tee at the eighteenth his nerves were solid rock.
His shoulder turn was youthful; his swing turned back the clock.
And when his drive had come to rest on fairway's grassy rug,
A single well-placed iron meant he'd hoist the Claret Jug.

Now a tumult from the gallery swept across the Firth of Clyde,
Bounded off the Isle of Arran and back through the countryside
From the youngest of the spectators to oldest grizzled Scot,
Came the following invocation: "Oh Tom, just one more shot!"

"Eight or nine?" he debated, and settled on the eight,
Then struck his ball and left the rest to the too-cruel hand of fate.
High and squarely at the flag the dimpled spheroid flew,
But though it landed on the green, alas, it bounded through.

The ball trickled to a rest on an awkward piece of ground.
Between fringe and second-cut it stopped, no easy up and down.
The Texas Wedge was in his hand, the time was do or die,
The too-firm lag then missed the hole and hustled eight feet by.

Then upon that stricken multitude there fell a ghastly pall.
As when brave Hector met Achilles and his tragic fall.
Watson quietly finds his line, onlookers hushed and grave.
How different from a day before when he'd bid them do the wave!

It all comes down to just eight feet, and one more putt to make.
The greatest achievement in our sport was there for him to take.
His eyes shone like an eagle's, as he calmly pursed his lips
And the world learned the hard way: even heroes get the yips.

The playoff: tragic epilogue to Watson's great achievement.
Tom struggled with shots sent awry; we with our bereavement.
The natural order was restored, the old man showed his age.
But we'll not forget the magic felt before history turned her page.

Oh somewhere in this favored game balls never land in traps,
And fathers oft defeat their sons without aid of handicaps.
But though there is no joy at Turnberry, I am sorry to report,
Watson may have come in second, but he hardly came up short.

See all of Rick Reilly's People Much Better Than Me More random mind dumps from the brain of Rick Reilly. Go fish! Be sure to check out Rick's Life of Reilly