Tom Watson has won the British Open five times. Thursday, after round one, at the age of 59, the most advanced age ever to lead a major, he was tied at the top of the leaderboard -- five under.
And he was still on top after two rounds, tied with five under going into the weekend, setting old fart records right and left. Meanwhile, Tiger didn't make the cut. [UPDATE: After three rounds, Watson is sitting all by his lonesome at 4 under as we head into Sunday.]
Did I mention that Tom Watson is 59? Fiff-tee-nine. That by itself is remarkable. But, along with his seriously advanced age [especially for pro sports], he just had surgery for a new hip nine months ago. Having to have a hip replaced is normally the time when the geez factor kicks into high gear and it's time to head for the La-Z-Boy.
But Watson didn't have just any hip replacement surgery. He didn't have just any minimally invasive hip replacement surgery, either. He had [trumpet flourish] ANTERIOR hip replacement surgery, the surgery I keep raving about again and again [okay, ad nauseum]. Because it's the surgery I chose for my two new hips. [We'll just see if I'm out on tour anytime soon.]
Watson's surgery was performed by Joel Matta in Santa Monica, the doc who is mostly [if not entirely] responsible for training all the other docs in the US who do this surgery -- my doctor, Michael Stover, for instance [in case you need anterior hip replacement the next time you're in Chicago].
By his own admission, Watson has known he needed to replace that left hip for several years. Unfortunately, people usually wait until they can barely walk, drive, or bend without pain. And then they wait some more, until they finally can't sleep without drugs. By that time, if they're not on crutches or in a wheelchair, someone is helping them put on their socks and wipe their butts. Not that I speak from experience.
Jack Nicklaus has had a hip replaced. I don't know who did his surgery. Or what kind of surgery he had. Based on how he walks these days, I would bet it wasn't anterior hip replacement. Later Nicklaus became a spokesperson for an implant manufacturer, Stryker, I believe. For a time I thought that the implant was key. After reading about the different implants, titanium, ceramic, and the like, I learned that they aren't the most important part of a hip replacement. What matters is the type of surgery. [NOTE TO DR. STOVER: Next time, if I'm around in fifteen years, I still want to try ceramic].
I guess Nicklaus and his old friend and nemesis, Mr. Watson, discussed the options. Watson also did a lot of research, probably the same way I did, combing the internet, reading articles. He finally decided, like me, after considerable investigation, that anterior surgery was his preferred choice. And Joel Matta was his go-to guy for the surgery that he needed. Since I was in Chicago and Matta is in California, I looked for more geographically desirable surgeons who had trained with Dr. Matta, i.e., Dr. Stover.
Here's my point [finally]. Do you think that Watson would be on top of the British Open leaderboard at the age of 59 with a new hip, if he hadn't chosen anterior hip surgery?
I think not. In fact, I'll go out on a limb here: I don't think Tom Watson would be leading the British Open nine months after surgery, if he'd opted for ANY of the other hip replacement techniques. If he should happen to win, I hope Al Michaels can do the call, "Do you believe in miracles?"
Which brings me to Bo Jackson, whose hip was necrotic, meaning that the blood supply was compromised. He didn't have osteoarthritis, like most of us. He had something worse, from what I can tell. So I don't know whether anterior hip replacement surgery would have helped to restore his dual careers in baseball and football. But as I watch Tom Watson cruising around the links, playing like he was thirty years younger, I can't help but wonder if Jackson might have enjoyed a similar recovery and a few more years doing something he loved.
Too bad we'll never know.