Watson took advantage of Eduardo Romero's late mistakes to take the Senior PGA Championship, his first U.S. victory since winning three times on the PGA TOUR in 1984.
'This validates my golfing career,' Watson said. 'It's gratifying to know that I've still got it after all these years.'
Watson, from Zimbabwe, edged Romero by two strokes to become the first international Senior PGA winner since Gary Player in 1990.
The 51-year-old Watson was as a rising star in the 1980s when he won the Buick Open, World Series of Golf and the Las Vegas Invitational. The next year, he tied for second at the U.S. Open. Later in 1985, though, Watson's rise ended when he hit into a hidden stump during a tournament in South Africa.
Watson continued playing, but would eventually find out he damaged his neck, wrist, back and shoulders. There's was nerve damage, too.
'I never played a decent round of golf (after that),' he said.
Watson's had eight or nine surgeries, he says, been in a back brace for weeks and spent years in rehab. No less an expert than teacher David Leadbetter told Watson his swing was dead.
'Someone told me that I'd played 30 times in 14 years,' Watson said. 'That's not a lot of golf.'
Things began to turn this season, his first full year on the Champions Tour.
Watson tied for second at the Turtle Bay Championship, then added three more top 10s heading into The Ocean Course, where he had to face Romero.
The Argentine star known as 'El Gato,' had handled The Ocean Course's famed sand dunes and Atlantic gusts the best of anyone the first three days. He was still ahead by two shots after birdies on the 11th and 12th holes pushed him to 10 under.
That's when things fell apart for Romero -- and Watson took advantage. Romero followed a bogey on the 13th hole with a double bogey on the par-3 14th when his tee shot all but buried in soft sand. 'I knew from tee that it would (be plugged),' Romero said. 'I thought 4 would be good. But I make double.'
Watson, meanwhile, stuck his tee shot about 12 feet from the hole, urging it on with, 'Be right. Be right. Be right. Be right. Yes!' Watson completed Romero's fall with a birdie, pumping his fist in triumph as he went to 9 under and gained a two-shot lead.
Watson thought 'If I can make this putt for a two, this is mine.'
That proved true, although Watson briefly gave Romero hope. On the 15th hole, Watson's bogey sliced the lead to one. But Watson came back with birdie on the 16th to restore the margin.
Watson made pars on the 17th and 18th -- he'd played the holes 6-over par the first three rounds -- for a 68. Watson again pumped his fist when his final putt went in, removing his wide-brimmed hat as the gallery applauded.
'Words cannot describe the feeling,' Watson said. 'Just to believe in my ability again.'
Price (71) finished at 6 under for third, his best placing since joining the Champions Tour this season.
Naomichi 'Joe' Ozaki (72) was fourth at 4 under. Tim Simpson (70) was next at 2 under, and Brad Bryant (71) was another stroke back.
They were the only players to finish under par on Pete Dye's challenge seaside course, built for the 1991 Ryder Cup matches and hosting its highest profile tournament since.
Although forecasts called for wind of 10 to 15 mph, tournament officials did not shorten holes for the final round. The par-3 17th played at 202 yards, nearly 50 yards longer than the 158 of the third round.
As expect, the hole continued to play tough. For the week, it gave up just 27 birdies, the fewest on The Ocean Course.
Two PGA club professionals made their mark at The Ocean Course on Sunday. Mike San Filippo of Hobe Sound, Fla., had a front-nine 32 that included birdies on both par 3s, No. 5 and No. 8. Then Ron Stelten of Palm Desert, Calif., used a 2-iron for an ace on 196-yard 14th. ... Defending Senior PGA champ Jay Haas finished with a 71, tying for ninth. ... The next big event for The Ocean Course: the PGA Championship in 2012.
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