Eleven years. That’s about how long Tiger Woods went between winning majors before claiming the Masters in 2019. It’s also approximately how long Neil Oxman, who has caddied for Tom Watson in 150 events since 1999, had gone without seeing a replay of the 2009 British Open at Turnberry in Scotland.
But that was before the coronavirus shut down the sports world and left Oxman housebound. In trying to fill the gaps in its TV schedule, Golf Channel recently aired a replay of its documentary “Tom at Turnberry,” and Oxman tuned in.
“Someone texted me beforehand and asked me if I was going to watch it. My text back was, ‘Do you think the result will be any different?’” Oxman tells The Forecaddie. “At least 500 people have said to me, ‘Have you seen it?’ and I kept saying, ‘No.’ Nor had I ever looked at a replay of the last shot. Ever.”
That would be Watson’s downwind, 8-iron approach from 189 yards as he chased winning his ninth major and first in 26 years. All he needed was a par to become at age 59 the oldest winner of a major, by more than 11 years.
“I couldn’t quite see where the ball landed on the green,” Oxman says of the second shot at the 72nd hole when Watson was nursing a one-stroke lead over Stewart Cink, who was in the clubhouse at 2-under 278. “I’ll have to go in the TV truck and watch it in slow motion and have them blow it up and see where it was.”
Watson flushed his second and it landed on the front-half of the baked green and rolled over, leaving Watson with an option to chip or putt. With the ball against the collar, he chose putter and rapped it 10 feet past. The par putt never had a chance. Playoff. Cink, one of the kindest and nicest men in golf, became the equivalent of a James Bond villain for capturing his lone major and ruining one of the great stories in golf.
In October, spur of the moment, Oxman hopped on a plane and did a 10-day Scottish golf pilgrimage with a stop at what is now known as Trump Turnberry Resort.
“I ended up being the only person on the golf course,” said Oxman, who had returned there once before for the 2012 Senior British Open. “I spent about 15 minutes on the 18th green walking around it. I still think he hit the right shot.”