TURNBERRY, July 20 – For Stewart Cink and his family it might be different but for everyone else, Turnberry 2009 will be remembered as the Open that Tom Watson and, to a lesser extent Lee Westwood, failed to win.But for a three-putt bogey on the 72nd hole, Watson would have pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in the history of sport by winning his sixth British Open title at the age of 59, nine months after being fitted with an artificial hip.
That he didn’t was all down to Cink’s steely resolve under pressure and nobody could deny the 36-year-old deserved to claim his first major title after holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green before playing the four play-off holes in two under par while Watson fell apart.
Yet it was also hard to do better than Watson’s pithy verdict on the week.
"It would have been a hell of story, wouldn’t it?" he said, before confessing that losing out had hurt him as much as any setback he had suffered in his long career.
"It is a great disappointment and it tears at your gut, just as it always has. I put myself in a position to win but I didn’t get it done at the last hole."
Watson’s approach to the final green looked to be immaculate but it skipped through the green to the edge of the short rough, from where he three-putted for a bogey five.
With hindsight, he said, he should have taken a nine rather than an eight iron. "I hit the shot I meant to, and when it was in the air I said ‘I like it’ and then all of a sudden it goes over the green.
"The play off was just one poor shot after another and Stewart did what he had to do to win, so congratulations to him."
A win here would have been extra special for Watson because it was at Turnberry in 1977 that he got the better of his great rival Jack Nicklaus in their ‘Duel in the Sun’ that has gone down in history as one of the great moments in sport.
Nicklaus famously wiped most of the details of that contest from his memory and Watson joked that he would be doing the same about this year.
"I have great memories of Turnberry and this would have been another great memory. Now I guess I will be like Jack and never remember what club I hit at any time."
Asked if age and physical and emotional exhaustion had caught up with him in the play-off, Watson replied with a smile: "It sure looked like that, didn’t it?
"It didn’t feel like it, but it just looked like it. I hit a chubby 5 iron for my second shot on the first playoff hole, the hybrid I hit on the second, I got stuck in that. Then my legs didn’t work at the drive at 17. And that was about it. By that time Stewart had it pretty well in hand."
For Cink, the over-riding emotion appeared to be relief that he had finally proved he belongs in the exclusive club of major winners.
"Maybe I was starting to believe that, that I wasn’t one of the best ones to never have won a major," he said.
"But for some reason I just believed all week that I had something good. My swing felt great. I was hitting the ball solidly. I was curving it the right direction, and that’s so important here.
"And I just felt so calm. I never even felt nervous at all."
While Cink prepares to reap the huge confidence dividend that comes with the experience of claiming one of golf’s biggest prizes, Westwood will have to come to terms with the fact that his best chance of doing that may now be behind him.
The 36-year-old Englishman was in pole position for most of the final day but was undone by bogeys at three of the last four holes and it was not long before his emotions were sliding from "frustration to sickness" in his own phrase.
He insisted however that the experience would not destroy him. "I was pretty happy with the way I played all day, hit lovely shots," he said.
"I made some good up and downs when I needed to. I’m putting in the hard work at the moment and it’s obviously paying off because I’m getting closer."