Tom Watson’s Open

Where does Tom Watson’s Turnberry achievement rank in the great events in sport generally and in golf in particular? If Watson had holed that put on the 18th green on Sunday afternoon, would his achievement been the greatest ever for a golfer of his age – or should we not be surprised?Gene Sarazen, in his 1950 book “Thirty Years of Championship Golf’ says “there is no reason why a golfer should not be able to play acceptable golf almost indefinitely – until he is 65, let us say – as long as his health is good and his game has been built on sound principles” Sarazen believes that “good golf is simply a matter of hitting good shots consistently and a player can do this for many years as long as his swing is fundamentally correct”.

Sarazen was often asked to rate the players who were his contemporaries (between 1919 and 1949). He said that he rated players according to how many major championships they won and how long their period of success pasted. Top of Sarazen’s list are Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan. Jones often said that the hallmark of a truly great player was the ability to carry on as a successful golfer into a new generation.

Also on Sarazen’s ‘list of golfing greats’ are Jim Barnes, Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. It is interesting to note that, while Sarazen  also rates Harry Vardon very highly, Sarazen believes that Vardon belongs to an earlier era. Strangely, Sarazen never said where he would place himself on that list according to his own criteria. Sarazen won the US Open in 1922 and was joint winner in 1940. He may have won more had international sport not been interrupted by the Second World War.

So, where does Watson’s achievements place him in the all-time greats, bearing in mind that he won his first major in 1975? In an earlier era, he may have been awarded joint first place instead of having to endure that terrible four hole play-off.Tom Watson’s Open

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