Shear disappointment plastered all over his face, it was apparent that after a week of bathing in the Fountain of Youth, Father Time finally had caught up with him.
Watson entered the final hole of regulation with a one-shot lead, needing only to make par to grab hold of a sixth Claret Jug. After a good tee shot, Watson, amped with adrenaline, hammered an 8-iron over the back of the green where the ball rested gently against the collar of the thick rough. He chose to putt and blew it 10-feet past. Then Watson put the worst stroke on the ball of the week and the par attempt didnt sniff the hole.
In the four-hole playoff Watson fought valiantly but he butchered the par-5 17th third playoff hole and Stewart Cink cruised to his first major championship. Watson had given all he had over four miraculous days alongside the Firth of Clyde but there was nothing left to give.
It would have been a hell of a story, wouldnt it? Watson said, not wanting to believe that it was over. It wasnt to be. And yes, its a great disappointment.
Its unfortunate that this championship will be known for the one that Watson blew rather than the one that he almost won. It shouldnt be. This wasnt Norman 2008. Last year, not even Norman thought he was going to win. He had a history of disappointment in majors and there wasnt a chance in the United Kingdom that the honeymooner was walking off with the goods.
Watson 2009 was different. Way different. He always believed that he was going to win. And he was so emphatic that he made others believe he was going to win.
Saying that the week was almost spiritual, Watson showed up Thursday morning for Round 1 after receiving a text message from Barbara Nicklaus wishing him luck. He used that as motivation to shoot a 65 that only was bettered by Miguel Angel Jimenez. Rounds of 70-71 put him in the lead and in the final group on Sunday.
The beginning and the end of the final round wasnt easy on the eyes but the middle was vintage Watson. He bogeyed the first and third holes and appeared on his way down the leaderboard. But he stuck to a game plan that says for each bogey, you must make a birdie and made impressive birdies at the seventh and 11th holes.
After birdie on the 17th, Watson stood on the 18th tee after fending off the likes of Cink, Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Mathew Goggin. Par was the only thing Watson needed to visit the promise land and put a bow on what would be considered golfs greatest moment.
But time ran out.
During the final two holes of the playoff, the gallery was as somber as a funeral.
Their adopted Scot had fought to the end but it wasnt good enough.
Im proud of the way Tom Watson played, Cink said. Not only did he show how great a golfer he is, but he showed what a great game we all play.
Watson would agree with the latter part of Cinks statement, but not the former. Hes not into moral victories. Not at his age, not from someone of his accomplishments.
Now its going to be like Jack, Watson chided about his rival, who insists he doesnt remember a shot from the 1977 Open loss. Ill never remember what the hell club I hit anytime during the whole tournament.
It tears at your gut, as it always has torn at my gut. Its not easy to take.
After his obligations with the media Watson was finally free to leave. Over the next several weeks he will undoubtedly beat himself up over his latest, and probably last, near miss at a major championship of this caliber.
But he shouldnt.
For four days at golfs oldest championship, the fields oldest player was young again.