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Walking wounded aiming for Senior PGA

Two of the youngest contenders for this week's Senior PGA Championship are hurting, but Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins hope they won't be elbowed out of the running for the season's second major prize on the Senior Tour.

Watson is struggling with a torn muscle in his right elbow, while Wadkins is fighting off stinging pain in his left elbow as they join in the 144-man field for the Senior PGA Championship at the Ridgewood Country Club starting on Thursday.

Doug Tewell, who also won the season's opening major, The Tradition, is back to defend his title in a field that also includes newcomer Tom Kite, successful seniors Hale Irwin and Larry Nelson and evergreen favourites Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino.

Watson and Wadkins are two of the players expected to inject new life into the Senior Tour, which has seen television ratings and attendance drop in the past few seasons.

But neither of the 51-year-olds have been able to spark the tour or consistently flash the skills that brought them so much success on the regular PGA Tour.

"I don't have any ligament damage, but I do have a torn muscle there that requires rest," Watson said on Wednesday.

"I'm not resting it, so I'm trying to keep playing, but unfortunately, I can't hit as many balls as I'd like."

Watson, who remarried last year and is kept busy by his young stepchildren, said he has received treatment to prepare for competition.

"Ice it, ultrasound, electronic therapy, heat at the beginning of the round," said Watson, who injured it the week before the Masters.

Asked how he hurt the elbow, Watson said: "It's a combination of exercising and hitting a lot of balls -- working out with medicine balls and doing things that 51-year-old people probably shouldn't do."

Wadkins suffered from an ailing right elbow last season, but this year it is his left elbow that is holding him back.

"I hate to harp on it, but my left one is very, very painful right now," said Wadkins, "and I'm taking as much stuff as I can probably ingest to be able to play.

"Right at my take-away, the pain shoots from my elbow down the left side of my arm," added Wadkins, who said he was changing the shafts on his irons to graphite this week in the hope he will find it less of a strain to swing.

Watson and Wadkins both expressed disappointment that they had not been able to take the Senior Tour by storm.

"The competition is great. It's very, very challenging," said Watson, winner of 34 PGA Tour events and eight major career titles including five British Open crowns.

"I see glimpses of good stuff, but it just doesn't hold up," said Wadkins, winner of 21 PGA Tour titles including the 1977 PGA Championship. "It's been very frustrating."

Watson has been criticised by some on the Senior Tour, including Tewell, for not playing often enough to help revive interest in the circuit.

"I understood the expectations of people on the Senior Tour, but I think, you know, the reality of it is I don't draw," said Watson, who played 13 events last season and has played seven times so far this year.

"I don't draw the fans to a golf course such as the likes of Trevino or Palmer or Nicklaus or Chi Chi. I mean the people come there to watch them more than they come to watch me.

Watson is plagued by the same woes that held him back during the last phase of his PGA Tour career - anxiety over short putts.

"I've had my share of problems with my short putting, but, you know, it's just that these guys can play. If you don't putt well, you're not gonna win any tournaments.

"It never surprises me that the person who putts the best wins," said Watson, who finished tied for 38th in last week's event. "The bottom line is putting."


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