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July 21, 2009

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Cink ruins Watson's fairytale script

TOM Watson's remarkable bid for a British Open victory at the age of 59 fell agonisingly short on Sunday when he lost to fellow American Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff.

Seeking a record-tying sixth Claret Jug, Watson squandered the chance to become golf's oldest major champion when he overshot the green before missing an eight-foot par putt on the 72nd hole.

Cink, who had earlier rolled in a 15-footer there for a birdie three to take the clubhouse lead on 2-under 278 at Turnberry's Ailsa Course, took advantage to seal his maiden major title.

"I'm a little intimidated by this piece of hardware here," an emotional Cink, 36, said after being presented with the Claret Jug on the 18th green.

"There are a lot of emotions running through my mind and heart and I'm as proud as I can be to be here with this (trophy). It was fun watching Tom all week and I'm sure I speak for all the rest of the people too."

Cink said his victory provided total vindication for the wholesale alterations he had recently made to his game. "When you're having a solid career and you go and just make massive changes, it's a leap of faith to some extent," the 36-year-old told said.

"I trusted myself I would be able to transform myself into a new type of golfer and I guess that transformation, with this Claret Jug in my hand, is now complete."

The 1.95-meter Cink said his golfing overhaul came after a series of poor performances in the latter stages of 2008. He said his confidence returned when he tied for 27th in last month's US Open.

Watson described his effort as "the dream (that) almost came true."

That it didn't wasn't necessarily because Watson kicked it away, though that might be the first impression. Indeed, the putt he badly stubbed to win in regulation will probably be remembered long after any of the preceding 276 shots he took at this British Open are forgotten.

What won't be forgotten is the way a 59-year-old man nearly delivered a win so monumental it was hard to compare it to anything else that came before. This kind of thing simply can't happen in most other sports, and had never happened before in golf, either.

Yet there was Watson standing in the middle of the 18th hole in regulation, an 8-iron in his hand, and the tournament in the bag. All he had to do was put it on the green, 2-putt and figure out who to give thanks to in his victory speech.

He couldn't, and now it's left to sports historians to some day figure out why. Watson wasn't quite sure himself, though he sat patiently, his eyes moist and his voice hoarse, and tried to explain afterward.

"It would have been a helluva story wouldn't it?" Watson said.

"It tears at your gut as it always has torn at my gut. It's not easy to take," he said.


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