Nicklaus to Tom Watson:”Win One for the Old Folks”

Many of us were moved when Tom Watson won in defeat, but no one wrote more beautifully about him than Thomas Boswell in this morning’s Washington Post:

…We don’t have the proper vocabulary to describe a 59-year-old who almost wins an event in which Tiger Woods can’t make the cut. But Yeats did: “Bred to a harder thing than triumph, turn away and, like a laughing string whereon mad fingers play, amid a place of stone, be secret and exult.”…

Age wins again; it just refuses to go away. After his bogey at the 72nd, Watson’s game fell apart in toto — 4 over par in the playoff. The moral is merely to stand against it, ignore it and play above it as long as you can.

And miserable undeserved bad luck, like Watson’s dead-flat-flushed approach to the 18th hole, when will it finally stop showing up to thwart the deserving? How much more charity work can Watson do, for his late caddie Bruce Edwards, or for decades in Kansas City? What kind of napping divinity allows such mischief, even in the devil’s game? But the lesson is trickier. We’re always responsible for ourselves. It never stops. Tom knows you always have to under-club coming to the house with a lead. You’re always amped — even when you’re really, really old.

“What do I take from this?” Watson told the media afterward. “A lot of spirituality. There was something out there, I still believe that, that helped me along.”

At the very least, it was the spirit of millions of people, not just in Scotland, who shared a rare moment when one man stood for us and pushed against the boundaries of age that we all share. Can you really change life’s timeline by 11 years? Do we, each faced with our own challenges, have the capacity to expand our expectations that much?

Before this round, Nicklaus sent the first text message of his life, assisted by his always more-savvy wife: “Win one for the old folks. Make us proud. Make us cry again.”

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