SOUTH BEND, Ind. – One day after showing some reluctance talking about his age, Tom Watson couldn’t get to the subject fast enough Thursday at the U.S. Senior Open.
The oldest player in the field, Watson shot his age in the first round at the Warren Course at Notre Dame, carding a one-under 69. The eight-time major winner turns 70 in September.
“It's always a hoot shooting your age, especially in the U.S. Senior Open,” said Watson, who now has done it 10 times in his career, including a second-round 68 in last year’s Senior Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews. “That's pretty cool. You know, I was very happy about that.”
He should have been. Watson is competing in just his sixth event this year. And with overnight rains hitting the Warren Course for a third day in a row, the layout played long. It seemed even longer with he and Tom Kite, also 69 but three months younger than Watson, paired with 50-year-old rookie Retief Goosen in a group of past U.S. Open champions. Goosen, recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, was 40 to 50 yards ahead of the older duo en route to a four-under 66.
Watson, who trails leader David Toms by seven shots after Toms tied the course and championship record with a 62, lamented missing an eight-foot birdie try on the ninth hole, his last of the day, but he made up several shots when he chipped in to save par at the long par-4 14th hole. “That was where I made up my ground today on that hole, where I could have been … it could have been really ugly.”
“Tom played beautifully,” said Kite, who like Watson won his U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
“Tom played really well. No, he's very consistent. It's amazing,” Goosen said. “Hopefully when I'm his age, I'll be shooting that kind of score.”
Playing in his 17th U.S. Senior Open, Watson broke 70 for the seventh time in the opening round. He has never shot higher than 74 to start the championship.
Watson was 64 years old the first time he equaled or bettered his age. He shot 63 in the first round of the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif.
This round was quite unexpected. He spent considerable time on the range Wednesday searching for a swing that would work. He obviously found something.
“Yeah, I figured something out yesterday … something that worked for me today,” Watson said, declining to disclose the adjustment he made. “Who knows whether it'll work for me tomorrow. I worked on my putting, and I changed something on my approach to my putting, and that seemed to work pretty well today. I made some good putts today. They were good, solid putts, and that's what I liked about it.”