Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. in May for his first Champions Tour victory, had the lowest round of the day at Whistling Straits to move to 2-under 214. Watson had the only round without a bogey and is tied for sixth place, five strokes behind leader Tom Watson.
'I've been playing well, but making a lot of mistakes on the golf course,' Denis Watson said. 'My head has been all over the place. Yesterday, I made some dumb mistakes early.'
Those included a triple bogey and two more bogeys to leave him 6-over par early in Friday's round. But he began to make his charge, and in his past 29 holes, he has 10 birdies and one bogey.
'I was grinding to make the cut, working my tail off,' Watson said. 'I still felt like if you get out there and play well, like I did today, that you might still have a shot on the weekend.'
Denis Watson said Saturday his goal wasn't to shoot a bogey-free round but to move to 6 under. He finished with pars on his final four holes.
'I feel good about where I am,' said Watson, who hoped he would be within five strokes heading into Sunday's final round. 'Then it's a tournament for me, where I feel like I might have a shot.'
Watson, who also had three PGA Tour victories in 1984 before injuries derailed his career in 1987, has been one of the Champions Tour's top players in 2007 with three top 3 finishes and four more in the top 10.
It's been an unexpected run for someone who thought his career was over after surgeries on his wrist, elbow and neck limited him to about 30 tournaments over 15 years. His wife, Susan E. Loggans, pushed him to continue.
'She's the one that kind of kept me focused and thinking I could get back and play,' said Watson, who has three children from a previous marriage and eight total, including two sets of twins. 'She kept kicking me in the pants and saying ... 'If you want to play, you've still got it, and you can play. You can do this.''
He said winning the Senior PGA Championship changed his perspective and validated his effort to play golf at the highest levels again.
'It wasn't just like another great win for somebody that's won a lot of tournaments,' Watson said. 'It's really been a big deal. You know, I've been soaking it in and a lot of things have been different. (I'm) just trying to remember that it's still just golf and you have to do the same things.'
HAVEN HI GUY REMEMBERED
Every day this week, Mary Olbrantz has sat in a chair outside her home on County Highway FF and waved at people in cars and buses driving past to the U.S. Senior Open at nearby Whistling Straits.
She is doing it in honor of her husband Raymond, who died May 26 of cancer.
Raymond Olbrantz became famous as the 'Haven hi guy' during the 2004 PGA Championship.
He greeted those headed to the tournament almost nonstop all day long that August with a wave and a sign that said 'Welcome' to tiny Haven, the small community near the course.
His one-man effort toward visitors touched the hearts of many because it reflected the kinder, gentler spirit of a small town.
This time, Raymond's wife is doing the waving.
'He wanted to be here. We talked about it,' Olbrantz said Saturday. 'I'm doing it because he can't be here.'
Her daughter, Lybra, was also greeting people Saturday.
Neighbors have also contributed their time this week when Mary could not be outside with a smile and a wave.
SLIPS AND FALLS
The 7,068-yard Whistling Straits course has tested the physical fitness of competitors in the U.S. Senior Open as much as it has their golf skills.
The links-style course is hard to walk because of elevation changes and narrow, steep footpaths used to descend or climb up to holes running along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Doug Miller, a physical therapist who has spent nine years tending the aches and pains of Champions Tour golfers, said the course has taken its toll on some seniors.
'We're seeing more shin splits, which we don't usually see on other courses,' Miller said. 'The walking has caused the most problems.'
Miller said senior golfers also struggled in handling the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, S.C. during the Senior PGA Championship in May.
'That was every bit as tough as this,' Miller said. 'There was so much sand there that they had to change the way that they walked.'
Miller admires the older golfers.
'The guys on the senior tour are pretty tough,' he said. 'Most of them are healthy and in great shape. They work really hard at it.'