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What I learned from Turnberry

Continued (page 2 of 4)

I GUESS HILARY [Watson's wife] had her eyes closed on that last putt of regulation. She couldn't bear to watch. Just as well. Maybe I should have used a designated putter. When it was all over, Hilary gave me a hug and said, "You did what you could do." But I might never have another chance to beat the kids again.

WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING in the wind, you always have two clubs in mind before a shot. At least I do, and I did consider a 9-iron on the approach to the 72nd hole. The pin was about 20 yards back; it was between a 9 and an 8. I wound up using 8-iron, and I don't second-guess myself there. I don't know what would have happened had I hit 9-iron, but I don't feel like it was a mistake.

NEITHER DID JACK. He called after I went to dinner Sunday night and said some nice things. He said, "You hit two perfect shots on the 72nd hole and made the right decision to putt the ball from the back of the green." That took a little of the hurt out of what I was feeling, hearing from Jack. Jack said he watched the entire Sunday round on TV, something he would never do. Pretty cool. Most of the week, I'd been going back and forth with Barbara, texting on the cell phone. She made a point to let me know that she and Jack were pulling for me, telling me I looked great and all that. Which was also nice.

‘It's the outcome that matters, not whether you hung in there at 59 and put on a good show.’

JACK AND BARBARA were there in 1994, after I'd lost. We went to the little pitch-and-putt course right in front of the Turnberry Hotel. We played until we couldn't see much anymore, just us and our wives, having a good time. We didn't keep score or anything, and there were no winners or losers. Just having a good time.

AS MUCH AS IT HURT ME to lose this year, I could also feel how people there felt. It would have been a great story for you guys. When I came into the press tent after and saw all those long faces, that's why I said, "This ain't a funeral."

THE THRILL of competing is tremendous, and the vibes I felt from those people and my peers during the week at Turnberry will never go away. After all, you lose in this game more often than you win. A lot more often. I've always been able to take defeat or disappointment and make lemonade out of it. Like Bobby Jones said, "You never learn in victory. You only learn in defeat." It was a magical week, maybe my last chance to do something, and those feelings of warmth took a little of the sting out of it. I was humbled. Totally humbled.

BUT IT'S THE OUTCOME that matters, not whether you hung in there at 59 and put on a good show and almost made for a hell of a story. Some of the writers were kind, saying it was a great story anyway. I say, almost. I had it within my grasp, I was in a good frame of mind, I wasn't nervous, but I let it slip away, and then in the playoff, I just didn't put up much of a fight. More bad swings in four holes than in four days? Sure looked that way. Only one guy finished. I felt a great sense of serenity during the week. And deep, deep disappointment after.

WE WENT to Wildings that night. Hilary, me and a couple friends. Great restaurant; went there five times that week. Walked in, and everybody stood up. Pretty cool. Nice dinner, then after, I signed some stuff and took pictures. One -- with some really nice-looking young girls -- wound up on the front page of one of those tabs.

ON THE PLANE TO LONDON the next day, another nice ovation. The night between was tough, though. You're not human if you don't play "What if?" You tend to look at failures instead of good bounces, the eight-footer you miss instead of the 60-footers you make.

HOW SO MANY people got my e-mail address, I don't know. People I've contacted maybe once in my life. I heard from friends, of course: Sandy Tatum, Rush Limbaugh, Barbara and Jack. But hundreds from so many others I don't really stay in touch with.

MICHAEL, MY SON, was morose. He's 26, in commercial real estate back in Kansas City. I called him the Monday after, and he cried. I let the conversation end. Ten minutes later, I called him again and went over with him what it really meant. It's only a game. I've cried before, but not then. I got messages from guys in Iraq I met two years ago on a USO Tour. I was affected by that, and still am. I've since played with men who didn't have a left arm or a right arm. Or they left their legs over there. What they're doing, that's pressure. That's not a game. Not an eight-footer.

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