Watson Starts Strong Again

By Sports NetworkJuly 24, 2003, 4:00 pm
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Tom Watson continued his recent strong play as he posted a 4-under-par 66 Thursday to grab a share of the lead after the first round of the Senior British Open. Watson was joined atop the leaderboard by Tom Kite.
Defending champion Noboru Sugai heads a group of seven players tied one shot behind the leaders. Also is that group are Carl Mason, Mark McCumber, Des Smyth, Russell Weir, Fuzzy Zoeller and Denis Durnian.
Watson and Kite, who were both among the early groups to tee off, remained atop a leaderboard that at one time had seven players tied for the lead.
Watson was the first of the two leaders to tee off on the Ailsa Course at the Westin Turnberry Resort. He got going at the second where he dropped a sand-wedge within 12 feet to setup birdie.
However, Watson could not maintain the early momentum. He knocked an 8-iron over the fourth green and was unable to get up-and-down to save his par.
He came back with a vengeance. He two-putted for birdie at the par-5 seventh, before running in a 20-footer for birdie at the eighth.
Watson, who out-dueled Jack Nicklaus to win the 1977 British Open Championship on this course, capped his front nine with his third straight birdie.
On the back side, the five-time British Open winner sank an eight-footer on 15 for his final birdie of the round. He was able to save par at the last despite finding a fairway bunker off the tee.
'I was very happy with the start because I didn't drive the ball well,' said Watson. 'I don't think I hit a fairway on the back side. I ended up shooting one-under par on the back side. It was not pretty off the tee for me today, but my iron play was good and I putted very well again.'
Watson and Nicklaus played together on Thursday. Earlier in the week, a plaque was dedicated on the course in honor of their duel in the 1977 Open Championship.
'The nostalgia, Jack and I talked a little bit and joked a little bit, but we're not living in the past,' said Watson. 'It was a struggle for me from the tee. It was a good day from the standpoint of understanding what my feelings were and getting the job done and getting a good score under my belt.'
Kite got off to a poor start. He dug himself an early hole as he double-bogeyed the par-4 first when his tee shot found a fairway bunker, which he blasted out of. That shot came to rest in a sand filled divot and he bladed his third shot over the green and was unable to get up-and-down to save bogey.
He managed to come right back with a birdie at the next. Kite was unable to make a 15-footer for eagle on the seventh, but settled for birdie which got him back to even-par for his round.
Kite dropped an 8-iron within eight feet to setup birdie on the 13th. He followed that up with another eight-foot birdie putt at the next.
The 1992 U.S. Open winner two-putted for birdie on the par-5 17th and joined Watson atop the leaderboard by running home a 20-foot birdie putt at the last.
'That little double-bogey on the first hole was like a slap on the face,' Kite said. 'It woke me up a little bit. I think my concentration kind of piqued from that point on. I was playing very steadily and very nice all the rest of the way around but was not quite able to capitalize on everything on the front nine. Then I made some really nice birdies on the back nine. I was quite pleased with the way I finished there.'
Bruce Summerhays heads a group of four players at 2-under-par 68. He is joined in a tie for 10th by Maurice Bembridge, Malcolm Gregson and Bill Hardwick.
Nicklaus carded an even-par 70 on Thursday. Mark Lye, making his Champions Tour debut, also posted an even-par round of 70 while the oldest player in the field, 81-year-old Jack Fleck, matched his age with an 11-over-par 81.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Senior British Open
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

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    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.