Tom Watson was the most successful senior in 2003, leading the Champions Tour in money won while playing in just 14 events. He is in Hawaii to start the new year. Last year he talked about how he beat the occasional slump in his career that seems to affect all golfers.
Let's put it this way, he said. It's tougher to deal with your failures because of the standards that you and only you set for yourself, not anybody else.
I never went into a tournament feeling that the standards were set by anybody else. People weren't setting any standard for me going into the tournament. Obviously, people followed me because they wanted to watch me play and see if I could win a golf tournament. But those standards - golf is a game where you set your own standards. My standards were to try to become the best possible golfer I could be and compete against the best.
Watson dramatically improved his putting last year. Once one of the best in the game, his putting slipped badly his last five or six years on the regular tour and his first couple of years on the Champions. But last year he ranked second on tour in the putting stats.
And if its possible, hes an even better player now than he was in the 70s and early 80s, when he won 33 times over an eight-year period.
Why do you get better as you get older? Watson said. Very simply, you eliminate the things that don't work and you find your fundamental rhythm. If I had really worked on my rhythm a little bit more than my swing as a youngster, I think I would have been a better player. But obviously, just like any kid, I wanted to hit the ball as far as I could and that's how it developed into a fast swing.
Watson will be joined in the smaller field by Hubert Green, who is battling back from throat cancer, and Sammy Rachels, who missed the final nine months of last season with a shoulder injury.
Im still pretty weak from the treatments, said Green, but Im going out there to see what happens. Youve got to start back somewhere, and Hualalai (the course) is a pretty good place to begin.
The 39-player field includes players who have won a Champions Tour major within the last five years or a tour tournament within the last two years, and the sponsor-exemption category.