What Tom Watson did this week at the British Open was remind everyone what is great about sports. For four days we got to sit and watch as a 59-year-old man battled and bettered the best golfers in the world. While his quest ultimately fell short to Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff, Watson’s performance will resonate loudly throughout the sports world for some time to come.
Golf participation in this country has been shrinking for years. Since 2000, the number of golfers in the U.S. has declined by 4 million and the number of players who play multiple rounds a year has also suffered a decline. Factors such as time and money are certainly big reasons for the shrinking of golf participants, but golf is also a game of tremendous frustration. As anyone who has ever stood over a tee knows, the line between success and failure is very, very thin. How many players have gotten sick of seeing little return for enormous investment?
And that is where Watson’s play this week may make a difference. Tom Watson showed everyone that golf can be enjoyed and contested by players of any age. Perhaps his play convinces a few former players to dig the clubs out of the back of their closet and try playing the game again. Perhaps it attracts some novices to the game. One thing for sure, it will attract a lot of attention to a game that is normally on the periphery of our sports consciousness.