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Watson to give big name boost to Senior Tour

He may or may not become the dominant senior player in the world next year, but already he is being viewed as a shot in the arm for a tired tour that has lost most of its sizzle. Tom Watson's arrival as a full-time player in 2000 will generate attention -- lots of attention.

The legends around whom the tour was created and has revolved for so long -- Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino -- are mostly sideshows these days.

They are usually out of sight by the time television cameras roll, leaving the prime air time to the Allen Doyles and Bruce Fleishers, excellent players with poor Q ratings.

And that translates into poor Nielsen ratings, which translates into trouble for a tour that has lost its personality.

Help, however, arrives in January in the form of the game's dominant player of the 1980s.

Watson turned 50 in September, placed 22nd in his first event, then won his second and called it a year.

"I whetted my appetite for the Senior Tour this year," said Watson. "There are a lot of good players coming onto the tour in the next couple of years and I look forward to competing with them.

"But, like Lee Trevino said, you better get it early, otherwise you're not going to get it at all."

That's a fact, indisputable and time-tested. Senior Tour dominance lasts about three years. Just ask Hale Irwin, whose three-year run as king of the tour was halted this year by Bruce Fleisher.

Since the tour began, players between 50 and 54 have won 77 percent of the titles.

It's a quick turnaround from tour savior to past tense, a fact Watson is acutely aware of.

Watson will have a running start next year toward his time to dominate, but before the end of the year he will be joined by Lanny Wadkins and Tom Kite, two more heavyweights who figure to help reinvigorate the tour.

The tour, remember, was created and fueled by nostalgia. Times, and the game, have changed, but a fresh influx of recognizable names is overdue.

"With Jack, Arnold and Trevino on their downward slides, the marquee names aren't drawing the crowds any more," Watson said. "But there are a lot of new players coming out. It's good competition and we have a little bit more fun than the regular tour. It's a little less serious.

"But still, it's good, really good, competition. People want to see the new blood and I hope my blood warms everything up out there just a little."

The players he used to dominate expect him to do so again.

"If this tour is a blood bank, he's going to be Count Dracula," Gary McCord said.