`Play-off defeat tears at my guts,' says Watson


Tom Watson admitted he will feel the pain of losing out on a sixth Open Championship victory at the age of 59 as much as any blow he has suffered in his glittering career.

Watson came within a play-off of completing what would have been one of sport's most remarkable achievements but Stewart Cink capitalised on his opponent's collapse to claim a first major title. Watson had led the championship by a shot when playing the 72nd hole but made a bogey before a series of wayward play-off shots dashed his chances.

"It is a great disappointment," Watson said. "It tears at my guts, just as any defeat tears at my guts. I put myself in a position to win and couldn't do that at the last hole. Then I played one bad shot after another in the play-off, I didn't do what I had to do to win. This is right up there with 1994, when I played really well here at Turnberry and came away with nothing as Nick Price won. It is disappointing. I will take a lot of nice things from this week but it is still disappointing to do the things I did and still lose the golf tournament."

Watson, though, admitted he revelled in the experience of competing in the upper echelons of a main tournament again. "I now remember what things are like on the big tour, playing with the kids," he added. "I take my hat off to Tiger Woods for what he does now, the commitments he deals with, the way he wins so much and is always in the limelight. Coming here, I could have dreamt that I could win the tournament because of how I was playing and because I know how to play this golf course. That dream almost came true. I am glad this happened."

Watson believed "spiritualism", relating to his famous Duel in the Sun Open win at the expense of Jack Nicklaus here in 1977, was also at work for 71 holes. "Now I will be like Jack was after that, I won't remember what club I hit at any hole," he said, only partly in jest.

Cink admitted there was a "surreal" aspect to his win, given the weight of public support on the side of his direct opponent. Cink, 23 years Watson's junior, played the four definitive holes in two under par, six shots better than Watson, having earlier and crucially birdied the 18th to card 69 and take the clubhouse lead.

"Extraordinary is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cink. "This has been a surreal experience for me. Not only was I playing at one of my favourite courses, in a wonderful tournament, but playing against Tom Watson. This sort of thing just doesn't happen. I grew up watching Tom Watson on television, hoping maybe one day I could follow in his footsteps - not play against him at the Open Championship. Tom turned back the clock. The whole thing has been amazing, I just feel so lucky to be a part of it."

Cink appears perfectly aware this may be an Open, like when Paul Lawrie triumphed over Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie a decade ago, which is remembered more for the loser than the man who claimed the Claret Jug. He also revealed he took the lead of Padraig Harrington, who had won the previous two Opens, by preparing with a week's links golf in Ireland. "I have felt very confident all week. I played some links golf in Ireland and that was very good relaxation and preparation. I also found something in my swing," Cink added. "I played with Lee Westwood and the British fans were behind him, so I knew what to expect with Tom."

Ewan Murray/© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009