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Tom Watson
Watson to give big name boost to Senior Tour
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Watson ready for new challenge at 50

Watson ready for new challenge at 50

Something happened in the late 1970s or early '80s, when Tom Watson was winning at least three Tournaments a year, that may be even more appropo today than it was back then.

Watson had just accepted a trophy for one his 34 victories when another PGA Tour player waved a wad of money in his face and offered to pay him not to play the following week.

The player was kidding, of course. But the pro, who shall remain nameless, may have known something Senior PGA Tour players are about to find out.

Even at 50, Tom Watson is, well, Tom Watson.

"I want to come out and compete, and I want to come out and win," said Watson, who will reach the half century mark on Sept. 4.

That first victory could come a few days later when the Kansas City resident makes his Senior Tour debut at the Comfort Classic on Sept. 9-12. Or maybe at the Bank One Championship on Sept. 16-19. Watson is counting on his strength and flexibility program and a multi-year contract with Adams Clubs, to help him make the transition from tormented to tormentor.

Longtime friend and rival Jack Nicklaus warned Watson, "It's not a cakewalk. The players out on the Senior Tour can flat play."

"I have been watching the scores out there, players shooting 62s, 63s and 15-under, 17-under for three rounds," Watson said. "That is great golf on any course."

Watson proved last year that a man in his late 40s still can play with the best in the world, posting three top-10 finishes in his first three starts. At 48, he produced a two-stroke victory over Jim Furyk at the MasterCard Colonial and earned a career-best $976,685.

Even so, Watson has adopted a wait-and-see approach. After competing in his first two Senior Tour events, he plans to take it easy through December. The real emphasis is on 2000.

"I've always played a limited schedule in the fall and geared up for January, and I don't intend to change that routine," said Watson. "As far as other Tournaments are concerned, I'm not sure yet."

Watson recalled playing with Miller Barber, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Bob Murphy and Lee Trevino after turning professional in 1971. Back then, purses averaged about $125,000 and camraderie was key to getting along on the road.

"I don't feel 50 yet, I feel as if I'm 21 but in a 50-year-old body," said Watson. "The most exciting thing about joining the Senior PGA Tour is getting reacquainted with players and friends."

Watson said he has no plans to leave behind the PGA Tour completely. He plans to play in the 2000 MasterCard Colonial and will consider whether to compete in the majors -- each of which he has won, with the exception of the PGA Championship.

"It's time to pass the baton, but it's hard to let go," said Watson. "I'll miss the competition (of the PGA Tour) in the sense that I still feel I can compete against the players out there. I just have to be totally on now to compete compared to back in my heyday.

"Now my off day is 74 or 75. You can't afford those scores at all. Those scores will kill you. Competition is really, really keen. The times when I play well, I can win."

But winning on the Senior Tour is a different challenge. There are 54 holes, not 72 -- and, there's no more dreaded cut.

The biggest challenge for Watson, however, may de-programming himself off "remote control."

"I think one of the things I know I am going to have to do more of when I get on the Senior Tour is become more course-conscious," said Watson, who faces the challenge of playing all new golf courses. "When I've played the last ten years on the regular Tour, I kept pretty much the same schedule, so I have been playing the same courses.

"I have hit some dumb shots out there because I just really didn't think about the consequences as I had before. And playing new golf courses, every shot you play you are looking at the consequences of a good shot versus a bad shot -- rather than kind of putting it on remote control like I had been doing."

 

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