On Monday (July 8) at 9 p.m. ET, GOLF Channel will debut its next GOLF Films project, Tom at Turnberry, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Tom Watson’s inconceivable run (at age 59) at winning The 2009 Open. In one of the most improbable sports moments in recent memory, the film – featuring commentary from Watson along with other key individuals from the week – will detail the circumstances that led to a magical week that no one could have anticipated.
The film also weaves in flashbacks to Watson’s moments of triumph from his wins at The Open during the peak of his career, earning the “Champion Golfer of the Year” distinction a remarkable five times in the span of nine years (1975-’83). It also touches on Watson’s relationship with links golf, which he initially loathed early in his career for its penal nature, and later learned to embrace and ultimately thrive in. Tom at Turnberry is produced for GOLF Films by 13-time Emmy Award winner Israel DeHerrera and Emmy-Award winning producer Erik Rozentals.
“We live in a day where we feel like we have to compare everything. There’s
nothing that compares to this. It stands on its own merits.” – Mike Tirico
THE ULTIMATE LONGSHOT: Despite having won The Open on five previous occasions, Watson was unmistakably a longshot to be in contention – let alone win – in 2009, as the oldest man in the field who was less than a year removed from having his hip replaced. Yet despite the odds stacked against him, Watson (26 years removed from his last victory at The Open) casually alluded to the notion of wrapping his arms around the Claret Jug for the sixth time during his pre-tournament press conference saying, “Now that’d be a story, wouldn’t it?”
While it isn’t plausible that anyone would have predicted Watson’s fate, in many respects, the stars for the World Golf Hall of Fame member were aligned. His vast experience competing on links golf venues offered an advantage on a field that included only 21 players that competed in the most recent Open at Turnberry in 1994. Watson also was returning to the site of the most-celebrated of his five Open titles, where he masterfully outlasted Jack Nicklaus in The 1977 Open in what is famously known as the “Duel in the Sun”. Above all, early in the week Watson implemented a slight change to his shoulder positioning with his putter that helped him hit putts more solidly. It led to Watson mentioning to his wife on the eve of the opening round that “he could win this tournament.”
“If Arnold [Palmer] put The Open back on the map, Tom [Watson] really was the
person who took it into the living rooms of America.” – Ron Sirak, Golf Writer
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: Thursday’s opening round saw Watson take advantage of calm conditions that were ideal for scoring, with an opening round 65 (5-under) that put him in a tie for second place. Beginning Friday’s second round at 5-over par through 7 holes, it looked as though Watson might fall out of contention, but he rallied to finish even-par for the round, and was tied for the lead going into Saturday.
Watson’s third round (1-over par, 71), put him in position to enter Sunday’s final round as the solo leader at 4-under for the week, as Saturday saw only five players with an under-par round. In the film, Neil Oxman (Watson’s caddie for the week) speaks to Watson’s self-contained nature helping him to stay in contention, essentially blocking the outside noise and the magnitude of what he was attempting to accomplish by ignoring the totality of the situation.
“THIS AIN’T A FUNERAL YOU KNOW”: Watson’s two bogeys through 3 holes on Sunday helped contribute to five different men holding at least a share of the lead at one point during the final round. However, when Watson birdied the 17th hole, he walked to the tee on the 72nd hole with a one-shot lead, needing only a par to shatter the record as the oldest major champion ever.
Following an ideal drive in the fairway, Watson’s 8-iron rolled over the green and when he failed to get up-and-down, his bogey led to a four-hole playoff that Stewart Cink went on to win. In trying to make light of the situation during a post-round press center visit, Watson declared, “This ain’t a funeral you know,” in acknowledging the disappointment of coming up just short of the historic victory. “It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn’t it?”
Following Tom at Turnberry, other GOLF Films scheduled to debut in 2019 include:
- The Road to Royal Portrush (Monday, July 15 on GOLFPASS): The Sky Sports’ produced film will chronicle the significance of The Open’s return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. The film also will detail the history of Royal Portrush Golf Club, Northern Ireland’s major champions, and the preparations for hosting the event for the first time in nearly seven decades.
- Tiger Woods – Chasing History (Monday, July 22, 9 p.m. ET on GOLF Channel): A comprehensive look back at the sights and sounds of Tiger Woods’ 81 PGA TOUR victories.
- The Legend of East Lake (Monday, August 19, 10 p.m. ET on GOLF Channel): Reflecting on Bobby Jones and Tom Cousins’ impact on the East Lake (Atlanta) golf landscape and community, and recounting Tiger Woods’ unforgettable TOUR Championship victory last September.
- On the eve of the PGA TOUR’s 20th annual Payne Stewart Award recognition (Sunday, August 18, 1 p.m. ET on NBC), GOLF Films also will present an updated version of the Emmy-nominated Payne (2014), focusing on how the late Stewart’s charismatic spirit is being passed down to future generations of professionals.