The big story at the British Open is the stunning resurgence of 59-year-old Tom Watson, a five-time winner of the tournament who took down Jack Nicklaus in one of the great duels in golf history 32 years ago on the same course. Just as compelling, however, is the possible dilemma facing Ross Fisher, who is just one shot off the lead and playing in the second-to-last group. You see, he has to deal with a tough choice presented to many weekend warriors on a regular basis: play golf or hang out with my wife?
Fisher, a native of England, is achingly close to achieving his dream of winning his nation’s major championship, and yet he says he’s willing to walk off the course at any time tomorrow and give it all up. What could possibly make him do that? His wife is due to give birth to their first child. Like, now. And he’s vowed to literally drop his clubs at a moment’s notice to head back to England to be at her side if she goes into labor. Clearly, Fisher’s a stand-up guy, but…really? You’d drop your putter on 16 with a one-shot lead and just let it go? No thought about the fact that your kid might be able to use all the prize money you’d be throwing away by leaving?
“Like I said all along, if Jo goes into labor, I’ll be supporting her a hundred percent,” Fisher said. “And I won’t be here, I’ll be with her, because it’s something that I definitely don’t want to miss. You know, it will be a shame, but I guess we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it, you know.”
The way that’s worded, I guess he’s leaving the door slightly open to hanging around. I would think the wife would, at some point, have to give at least a token “Honey, you should stay and play. No, seriously. Really, I’ll be fine.”
The biggest impact certainly would be on his wallet. While Fisher’s a pretty good player who has won a couple of titles on the European Tour, the difference between the money he would win for finishing in one of the top five spots and what he would get for bailing out (in which I assume he would receive last-place money among those who made the cut) is going to be a startling amount (I can’t find the prize money figures anywhere). I can’t imagine that he or his wife would want to leave that money sitting there.
If he does go, I think the best way to leave would be to hit one way right into that crazy grass and then just sort of slip away when 100 people are searching for his ball. “Hey, we found it! Hey, where’d he go?”
ESPN’s Jason Sobel suggests that he just shouldn’t answer his phone. Maybe he could “accidentally” turn it off.
I imagine this sort of thing is unprecedented (for one of the leaders, anyway) and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out. If he does leave, it would leave Lee Westwood out there by himself, and he’d probably find himself having to wait at every tee for the group in front of him like it’s a Saturday afternoon at your local city course.
There’s much to be read about Watson elsewhere, including this story about what some other famous sports figures born in 1949 are up to these days (like Lyle Alzado). But my favorite is this nugget buried in the LA TIMES article about Fisher:
Majestically on a hill above the course sits the 103-year-old Turnberry Hotel, which does include a suite named for Watson in which Watson happens to be staying, with roomie Vijay Singh. “That’s correct,” Watson said. “Vijay is in the big part of the suite. I’m in the small room.”
“Uh, yeah, I wasn’t really planning on staying here after Friday, but I’m pretty sure you’re required to let me stay in my room.” And look at Veej, not even letting him have the big room.
I know we’re all waiting for Watson to fall apart, but why? You think Matthew Goggin has a better chance of shooting 70 tomorrow? Watson fought off Jack Freaking Nicklaus here last time, I don’t think he’s going to be scared of anyone he’s up against tomorrow.