LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Once a golfer reaches age 40, let alone 50 or 60, theopportunities at winning decrease dramatically.
Maybe that’s why Tom Watson seemed to particularly cherish his win Sunday inthe Senior PGA Championship.
Perhaps it was the possible finality of it.
“Obviously, it never ceases to be enjoyable, winning a golf tournament,”The 61-year-old Watson said after rolling in a 3-foot birdie putt on the firstplayoff to defeat David Eger . “I’ll go back and think about this tournament. Ifthis is the last tournament I ever win, it’s not a bad one to win.”LUTZ, FL - APRIL 15: Kenny Pe…
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Down a shot with four holes left in regulation, Watson became the oldestplayer to win a major since the senior tour was created in 1980. He also becamethe second-oldest winner of the Senior PGA, and the third-oldest winner of aChampions Tour event. The victory came 10 years, 2 days after he won his otherSenior PGA Championship at Ridgewood Country Club in 2001.
Watson may not be the same player he was in his prime, but there have beenvery few players in history as good at sealing the deal with the outcometeetering.
“It’s amazing,” said Eger, a longtime PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Associationrules official who worked closely with Watson and other superstars for a coupleof decades.
“Tom hasn’t played well this year until this week and suddenly, bam, itclicked on. I don’t know what he does out there in Kansas City, or Hawaii, orwherever in the world he goes. But whatever he does, it’s been the rightformula.”
Watson closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 10-under 278 and capture his14th career major, six since turning 50 to go with five British Opens, twoMasters and a U.S. Open.
“Coming into the tournament I really didn’t give myself any chance based onthe way I was practicing last week in Kansas City,” he said. “But the lightswitch went on.”
A club rep pointed out a subtle change in his swing. From there, it was badnews for the rest of the field.
“Lo and behold, I started making good swings again,” he said, as if hewere surprised.
Eger closed with a 67.
Both Eger and Watson missed short birdie putts on the 72nd green that wouldhave won for either in regulation, Eger pulling a 6-footer and Watson pushingone from 4 feet.
Watson went for the green with his rescue-club second shot on the playoffhole, the 18th, but it came up short and in the deep and gaping bunker thatfronts the green.
“If it went into the bunker, that was just where I wanted to be,” he said.
Eger caught a bad break when his drive came to rest in a grassy finger onthe edge of a large bunker along the left side of the fairway. He hit a layupand then a wedge to 10 feet, but missed the birdie attempt.
“I hit a pretty good third shot up there,” Eger said. “I thought I hit areally good putt. It just was not good enough.”
Taking little time after blasting out of the sand to 3 feet, Watson calmlystroked in the winner while the large gallery at Valhalla Golf Club cheered andapplauded.
Kiyoshi Murota , who had at least a share of the lead after each of the firstthree rounds, closed with a 72 and was alone in third, a shot out of theplayoff.
He had promised he would play “Murota golf” in the final round.
“I played my Murota golf to the best of my ability,” he said through aninterpreter. “However, my putting left something to be desired.”
Five days before he turns 66, four-time Senior PGA winner Hale Irwin had adouble bogey and two bogeys in a 73 that left him at 8 under.
Eduardo Romero (68), the benefactor of a lucky bounce off the rocks thatturned a bogey into a birdie at the 13th hole, and Peter Senior (69) were at 7under. Nick Price shot a 72 and to finish another stroke back.
Watson seemed stupefied to find himself with the crystal trophy and the$360,000 first-place check at the end.
“Wow. Winning again at 61,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t thinkit’s an age thing but, God, I’ve been out here a long time.”
But the winning, unlike the players on the Champions Tour, never gets old.
Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap