Tom Watson was a legendary golfer long before he arrived in Scotland last week. His life defined regardless of whether he played or not. One of the all-time greats.
But had he won at Turnberry on Sunday, he would have stood alone. Forever.
At the critical moment he relied on experience.
What he needed was Alfie Fyles.
In 1977, Tom Watson defeated Jack Nicklaus on the same golf course to win the British Open. It is arguably the greatest head to head battle in the history of Championship Golf. Hubert Green came third. He was ten shots back.
Standing in the middle of the 18th fairway that day, Watson led by one. The shot was 180 yards. He pulled a six iron from his bag.
Tom Watson has always understood the value of partnership on the golf course. For twenty seven years a man called Bruce Edwards was his caddie. Everywhere except in the U.K.
Links golf is a different art. It’s played as much along the ground as in the air. So when he played the British Open, Tom Watson hired a British caddie. Alfie Fyles.
As Tom pulled the six iron, Alfie shook his head and handed him a seven. “I can’t hit this that far,” Tom protested.
“The way your adrenaline’s pumping, you can,” Alfie grinned.
Watson hit the shot with Alfie’s seven. It finished two feet from the hole. Even when Nicklaus holed a forty foot miracle for birdie, Watson was left with a tap in-to win. I saw it on tape the other day. As a moment in history it’s utterly anti-climatic.
The inevitable result is what all business owners strive for. Success, reward, and legacy that comes down to a two-foot tap in.
Tom Watson’s partnerships with Bruce Edwards and Alfie Fyles won him eight major championships.
But the moment that would have set him apart forever he tried to meet alone.
He failed, not because he was afraid to try.
But because he was capable of more than he knew.
Alfie Fyles knew.
Who’s your Alfie Fyles?