Why Tom Watson Did Not Choke at The British Open

08/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tom Watson did not choke at the 2009 British Open.

Tom Watson is 53 days shy of his 60th birthday.

Tom Watson is 30 years past his best playing days.

Tom Watson shouldn't have been leading the Open Championship after 71 holes in the first place (he was given 1,000 to 1 odds to win entering the tournament).

So why wasn't Tom Watson's overshot of the green and subsequent misses considered a choke?

I've thought long and hard about this after witnessing Tom Watson's stirring performance at Turnberry, one of his favorite courses.

Because the deeper question becomes: What makes Tom Watson's not-winning different from, say, Kenny Perry's meltdown in this year's Masters?

I think the best answer is another question: When someone isn't supposed to win in the first place, can it be considered a choke when he doesn't?

Sports are truly satisfying to the psyche because they are a microcosm of life. There are good guys and bad guys (Stewart Cink was thrust into the latter role through no fault of his own); heroes and villains; winners and losers; and a beginning, middle and an end.

In the 2009 British Open, Tom Watson gave us a brilliant beginning and a stirring middle. He missed giving the world a storybook ending by a surge of adrenalin and a matter of inches.

My hat's off to Tom Watson. Thank you, Tom, for showing us the meaning of true grit and grace under pressure.

"Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening - and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented." - Arnold Palmer

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Noah St. John is the author of The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness (HarperCollins).

He helps people get rid of their head trash and enjoy more wealth, freedom and abundance. Free book excerpt at