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Tom Watson aims for another Open

The week after a major championship victory you do many things. Celebrate, take a vacation, maybe even make the rounds on the talk-show circuit. What you don't do is play in another major, but that is exactly what Tom Watson is doing this week.

A week after capturing the Senior British Open, Watson will attempt to capture his first U.S. Senior Open title at the NCR Club's South Course.

Watson claimed yet another British Open on Sunday, outlasting Des Smyth of Ireland in a playoff at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club to win his second major on the Champions Tour. A winner of the Senior British Open at Turnberry two years ago, Watson won five British Opens as a member of the PGA Tour. He again found the links courses to his liking, erasing a five-shot deficit at the start of the weekend.

The winner of the 1983 U.S. Open, Watson comes to the 7,000 yard, par-71 setup playing outstanding golf. Aside from his win last week, he finished second at the Bayer Advantage and tied for third at the Senior Players Championship. He then finished tied for 41st at the British Open in St. Andrews before outlasting Smyth the following week.

Watson would like nothing more than to parlay his recent streak of strong play into another victory this week.

"The U.S. Open has always been my favorite tournament to win, my national Open, my national championship," Watson said. "The U.S. Senior Open is the same, it has the same meaning to me. It's the championship to win out here. I've come close. I was in a playoff three years ago. I had my opportunity there to win and I didn't do it. But it's the tournament I want to win most out here on our Champions Tour."

For the 55-year-old Watson to earn the elusive victory he will have to overcome a field of big names, including Greg Norman, Loren Roberts, Dana Quigley and defending champion Peter Jacobsen.

Norman underwent back surgery on March 22 to relieve pain which had been bothering him for the last few years. He hasn't won a PGA Tour event since 1998 but has shown little sign of rust the past two weeks.

In his return tournament, Norman played well at the British Open for three days before a final-round 76 dropped him to a tie for 60th. Last week he made his Champions Tour debut at the Senior British Open, and opened poorly, carding a 76. The "Great White Shark" then got hot, firing rounds of 67, 70 and 68 to miss out on the playoff by one stroke.

"It's a pleasure to be here. I'm tired obviously coming back from the British Open, from surgery, which was priority No. 1," Norman said. "Did that successfully and each week since the British Open I've felt in pretty good control of my golf game."

Last year it was Jacobsen who was coming back from surgery and still found a way to outlast the field in a 36-hole marathon on the final day to win at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

Three months after hip surgery, Jacobsen led or shared the lead for three of the four rounds and fired rounds of 69 and 68 to finish at 12-under-par 272, one shot better than two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Hale Irwin.

"I've played in championships my whole golfing career back when I was a junior player, and for me to have won a USGA championship at the age of 50, I feel very honored to be introduced as the U.S. Senior Open champion," Jacobsen said.

Quigley is back in action after missing the Senior British Open and seeing his streak of 264 consecutive events come to an end, while Roberts will be making his second Champions Tour start.

Quigley decided against a trip across the pond because of an ailing hip but is ready to start a new streak Thursday.

"I don't think it was much of a decision to come play here. You want to play well in the U.S. Open so that wasn't even a concern," Quigley said. "I really felt that flying over there and flying back, I definitely would not be prepared for this tournament. That was my main concern."

Roberts made the trip to Scotland to make his tour debut and will be playing in his first U.S. Senior Open. Known as "the Boss of the Moss" due to his putting prowess, Roberts is looking forward to fast and firm greens, a hallmark of USGA setups.

"Obviously I'm not known as a great ball striker, but I have been a pretty good putter, and I think the conditions are going to favor somebody that can make some putts," Roberts said. "There's a difference between firm and fast and ridiculous. But by and large, every time I have watched a Senior U.S. Open on TV, it looks like the golf course is really set up well, and that's what I'm looking forward to this week."

 

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