65-year-old Tom Watson leads US Senior Open after 1st round

Jun 25, 2015, 7:25 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Tom Watson has accomplished more in golf than most players ever will. The 65-year-old nearly pulled off a feat Thursday even he had never done: shoot his age in a major championship.

So what if it’s the senior tour?

Watson took advantage of cooler morning conditions to shoot a 4-under 66, grabbing a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the sun-baked U.S. Senior Open.

All that prevented Watson from matching his age on the scorecard was a 35-foot putt on his final hole.

“Man, did I want to make that putt. I was grinding on that putt more than any putt in a long time,” Watson said. “Shoot my age in a U.S. Open championship? That would have been pretty special.”

Instead, the putt stopped short and he settled for par — about the only thing that didn’t work out well for Watson over his final nine holes.

With the temperature soaring over 100 degrees in the afternoon, Watson worked through Del Paso Country Club before the scorching heat in California’s capital city intensified. The eight-time major champion overcame an early double bogey and had four birdies in a six-hole stretch after the turn.

“It shows these great old champs are great old champs for a reason,” said Michael Allen, among a group of players who shot 67.

Allen was joined by Lee Janzen, Jeff Hart, Jim Carter, P.H. Horgan and Woody Austin.

Defending champion Colin Montgomerie and Champions Tour stalwart Bernhard Langer, who have won six of the last seven senior majors, teed off in the afternoon heat — and also had to deal with firmer and faster greens. Tournament officials said the highest-recorded temperature was 101.5 degrees.

Montgomerie shot 68, and Langer 71.

“Right in there where I’ve got to be,” Montgomerie said.

But the opening round belonged to one of the most decorated players in golf history, one whose storied career is about to make a major shift.

Watson will play in his final British Open next month at St. Andrews. He’s the only man to claim the claret jug on five courses (but never St. Andrews).

While one chapter of his career is closing, another seems just fine.

Watson is one of the biggest draws on the Champions Tour — when he plays, that is — along with 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples, who withdrew earlier this week with a back injury.

Watson has won 14 times on the Champions Tour, which is reserved for those 50 and older. His last victory came at the 2011 Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.

Now he’s in position to end that drought.

The lone hiccup on Watson’s opening round came when he plugged his approach on the 16th hole in the gnarly rough along the bank of the lake and finished with a double bogey. Watson recovered with four birdies on his back nine — including a 50-foot putt on the second — to surge to the top of the leaderboard.

As the sun skied over the Central Valley late in Watson’s round, spectators crowded in the shade along the rough instead of the ropes around the green. Some gathered around cooling stations, and others brought umbrellas and tiny electric fans to try to keep cool.

Many players walked out of their way on the rough to stay in what little shade Del Paso provided. Watson, meanwhile, scribbled notes on his yardage book to prepare for his afternoon tee time Friday, when the temperature is expected to rise above 100 again.

“Usually, you have your diagram on your book that says all right, here’s the bunker, here’s the green like this,” Watson said, pointing. “Now you have a diagram, here’s the shade over here, the shade over here, there’s a shade behind the tee over there. That’s what you’re looking for right now.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Penguin Air


Phil Mickelson of the United States waits to play his tee shot on the 16th hole during the final ro...
Associated Press

LIV Golf faces hurdles in applying for world ranking points

The OWGR handbook says the board can admit or reject any new tour regardless of compliance and change criteria at its discretion.
1 day ago
Matthew Wolff reacts after a shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the Travelers Champio...
Associated Press

Matthew Wolff, Ortiz among the latest to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf

The Saudi-funded LIV Golf series has added 23-year-old Matthew Wolff and Oklahoma State's Eugenio Chacarra of Spain.
2 days ago
Phil Mickelson of the United States , second left, waits to play his tee shot on the 16th hole duri...
Associated Press

British Open allows golfers from Saudi-backed series to play

Players who have joined LIV Golf will still be allowed to compete at the British Open next month, organizers said on Wednesday.
7 days ago
Brooks Koepka reacts to his shot off the 12th tee during the final round of the PGA Championship go...
Associated Press

Report: Brooks Koepka the latest to join Saudi-backed LIV series

Brooks Koepka, among the first players to denounce a rival league for only 48 players, is the latest PGA Tour player to sign with LIV Golf.
8 days ago
Grayson Murray of the United States plays his shot from the fourth tee during the third round of th...
Haboob Blog

Pro golfer Grayson Murray steals show at U.S. Open with meltdown

Pro golfer Grayson Murray was having a tough go of it Sunday morning at the 122nd U.S. Open. Just ask his golf clubs.
9 days ago
Jon Rahm, of Spain, hits on the 18th hole during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament a...
Associated Press

ASU’s Jon Rahm sits 1 stroke off lead at U.S. Open heading into Sunday

Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick avoided the carnage that took down golf's best Saturday at the U.S. Open.
11 days ago
65-year-old Tom Watson leads US Senior Open after 1st round