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This was what I wrote just before Tom Watson pulled his putt on 18:

"Let's say it now, while the sun is still up and the Turnberry grass still bears the ball marks: today, July 19, 2009, is the greatest day in golf history.

"Over the top? If so, not by much. There are other challengers for that title, of course. Tiger Woods' ascent to the national stage at the 1997 Masters or his valiant duel with Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open; maybe Jack Nicklaus's 1986 Masters win. Maybe."

And it went on from there, a post that won't ever see the light of a computer screen. This will be a day long remembered in golf history, but not for the reasons we wanted it to be. When Watson missed his Open-winning putt on 18 and then faltered badly in the four-hole playoff, he all but literally handed the championship to Stewart Cink.

Were this anyone else, were it any other golfer short of Nicklaus himself who'd pulled up short on a putt to win the British, he'd be getting roasted alive for choking, for giving away one of golf's greatest prizes.

But if anybody's earned the benefit of the doubt over the last few days, it's the guy who's already won five of these Claret Jugs. Watson exceeded everyone's expectations by such a vast margin that he could have three-putted from five feet and people would have understood. This was beyond special, this was as close to magical as sports can get.

Golf is such a cruel sport, so unfair. It was the perfect story for Watson to take home his ninth major, more than a decade older than the next-oldest major winner. But it wasn't to be.

And yet, even in the midst of Watson's breakdown, we saw the ascendance of a new major winner. Stewart Cink captured his first major today, and it was a win well deserved. Watson left the door open, certainly, but nobody else stepped through it -- not Lee Westwood, not Chris Wood, not Ross Fisher, nobody. Cink combined skill and intellect to put himself in the perfect position to win. He had four birdies over the final nine holes, including a thrilling gut-check putt on 18, and then played smart golf throughout the playoff to bring the Claret Jug home to Georgia.

So, all the credit in the world to Stewart Cink, but I think even he will understand that the 2009 British Open won't be remembered for what was, but what could have been.


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