This tour is built on names, said Watson. When you have the names, you have a successful tournament. When you dont, you dont.
The Kansas City tournament has the one name that anybody in town cares about ' Tom Watson. Watson was born, raised and still maintains a residence in the area. As one of golfs all-time greats, who won eight major championships as a regular-tour golfer and has 30 PGA TOUR victories, Watson has had a long and storied career.
Health issues and the demands of a family have meant that Watson hasnt been as active on the Champions Tour as he would like. He has played only six times this year. But on five of those occasions he has finished fifth or better, racking up a victory in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. He is first on the greens-in-regulation list, leads in the overall rankings, is second among the birdie leaders ' and is second in scoring.
I can still hit it, said Watson, who is now 56 years of age. I cant hit it quite as well as I used to, but I can hit it.
Watson used to be near the lead in driving distance, but now he has slipped back to the middle of the road ' hes 30th this season. But now the difference in No. 1 and, say, No. 30 isnt as great as it used to be.
There simply arent any short hitters, Watson insisted. But in the old days of the persimmon driver ' you hit the ball in the neck with a persimmon, and it didnt go anywhere. The longer hitters might get 235.
Now, you hit it in the neck, that sweet spot is about 2 inches wide, it goes for a mile. The good players dont miss the big ol sweet spot very often.
In 1980, a year in which Watson won six times, he hit his persimmon driver an average of 266 yards ' which ranked 24th on TOUR. He was 30 years old then. This year, 26 years later, at 56, he is hitting it longer with the metal driver ' 272 yards.
He has hit the persimmon recently, though, just for grins.
I hit it a couple of years ago down in Australia, he said. Hit it great, too. Hit it right in the middle of the face.
Anymore, though, you cant work the ball with a driver. Thats the balls fault. The ball just doesnt spin as much.