Column by Ken Cohen
A few things happened in sports over the past couple of weeks that went unnoticed and relatively uncovered, but deserve some comment/mention.
Tom Watson makes the cut at The Greenbrier Classic
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not! At 62 years old, Watson continues to prove that he can still play and compete on the regular tour. It’s hard to believe, but Watson’s swing sometimes looks better now than it did 30 years ago when he was dominating the PGA Tour.
Let’s not forget that just three years ago, Watson was eight feet away from pulling off what would have been the most remarkable sporting achievement of all time winning the British Open at age 59.
To this day, that was the single most nerve-wracking and gut-wrenching sporting event I’ve ever watched. Leading by one stroke with one hole to play, Watson calmly hit two perfect shots unfortunately his second one hit on the green and bounced over. Still, he was only about 20 feet from the hole. A good chip or a putt and he wins.
But nerves finally got the best of him as he raced his first putt from off the green eight feet past and then fanned on the par putt that would have won. He subsequently got blown out in the three-hole playoff with Stewart Cink, who I still can’t come to recognize as a major champion.
Still Watson became the oldest person to ever finish second in a major championship and also hold the lead at any point in a major. Which is a little ironic. Watson is only the second pro emeritus at The Greenbrier Sam Snead was the first and only until his death in 2002. Snead holds virtually every “age” record on the PGA Tour, including oldest player to make a cut, 67 at the 1979 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic; oldest to finish a tournament in the top 10, 63 at the 1975 B.C. Open and oldest to make a cut in a major, 67 at the 1979 PGA Championship.
The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia so there is something in the water there! I wouldn’t be surprised if Watson breaks one or two of Snead’s ageless records.
Wladmir Klitschko defends heavyweight titles
Did anyone even know there was a heavyweight championship fight? I remember the day (from my era) when heavyweight bouts were the grandest of sporting events? Weeks of hype and build-up. Record purses. Name-calling and pre-fight antics. But ultimately great fighters and great matchups. Ali, Frazier, Norton, Foreman, Holmes, Holyfield, Tyson, Lewis. You would actually plunk down money to go watch these guys on closed circuit or, later on, order pay-per-view.
Yes, there was always controversy and contrived drama (thank you Don King), but the sport had glamour and pizzazz. Not just because of incredibly skilled boxers, but also the personalities involved. Now, we have neither. The Klitschko brothers are Drago-like robots who are doing nothing for the sport. They are very good, but heavyweight boxing requires greatness to hold its banner. That’s why it’s been on the mat since Lewis battered Tyson.
I love boxing some of my most vivid sports memories come from the ring. Ali outlasting Frazier in Manila, outsmarting Foreman with the Rope-a-Dope and out-training Leon Spinks to regain his title in 1978. Holmes battering Gerry Cooney; Buster Douglas flooring Tyson in the biggest sports upset of all time; Foreman knocking out Michael Moorer at age 45 to become the oldest champion in history. I could go on, but heavyweight boxing from 1970 until 2000 was almost as big and entertaining as the NFL is today.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.