Watson's Giveaway Is Bryant's Gain
HAVEN, Wis. (AP) -- Tom Watson gave as Whistling Straits took away.
In the end, Brad Bryant was left with the biggest moment of his career -- and the second-biggest final-round comeback in a U.S. Senior Open.
Bryant shot a 4-under-par 68 in stiff winds and searing 90-degree heat on Sunday to take advantage of yet another senior open collapse by Watson and win his first senior major.
"I've always been a journeyman, and to come out here and beat a couple of the best players in the world on a day like today is near-miraculous, actually," said Bryant, who won only once in more than two decades on the PGA Tour before finding recent success on the Champions Tour. "I was pretty good."
Bryant said he was fortunate that both Watson and Loren Roberts, who came into Sunday three shots behind Watson, played poorly on the same day.
"It was really scripted for Tom Watson," Bryant said. "The winds, the heat, it was really his day."
It certainly appeared that way early on as Watson, who had finished second in three of the previous five senior opens, shot 1 under on the front nine and began the back nine with a birdie to go to 9 under for the tournament.
But then came the collapse, as Watson frittered away six strokes in the space of five holes, a stretch that included two double-bogeys.
"I hit the ball in the rough too many times, and today I got my just reward," Watson said.
But Bryant couldn't pounce right away, missing a 10-foot par putt on the 12th hole for his first bogey of the day and bogeying again at No. 14.
But Watson just kept sliding -- something Bryant said he was "blissfully unaware of" until he asked his caddie about the leaderboard on the 18th hole. Bryant finally broke through with a birdie on the par-5 16th hole to take the lead for good.
Bryant teared up afterward, saying he always wanted to do something big with his children around to witness it.
"I think this qualifies," he said.
Watson shot a 6-over 78 to finish 1 under for the tournament, behind Bryant, Ben Crenshaw at 3 under and Roberts at 2 under.
"He played so good through the stretch to get to 9 under, and then the double bogey at 11 just absolutely killed him," Roberts said of Watson. "Tom had some struggles. He hit a couple loose tee shots, and putted poorly."
Watson's misfortunes paid off for the 52-year-old Bryant. He finished third on the Champions Tour money list last year with two victories, and won again earlier this year at the Regions Charity Classic in Birmingham, Ala., in May.
Bryant took home $470,000 for the victory. His comeback on the final day of the senior open was second to Allen Doyle's victory from nine shots back in the 2005 tournament.
Bryant also was the only player to shoot all four rounds at par or better at a Whistling Straits course that got harder as the tournament progressed.
"He's got some game," Watson said. "He's got more game than I do."
The winds whipped up for the second straight day to hold scores down at the Scottish-style course that sits on the banks of Lake Michigan about an hour north of Milwaukee.
And because the winds were blowing mostly out of the west -- and not off the lake -- in 90-degree temperatures, players and fans felt like they were standing in front of a hair dryer for hours.
Bryant was one of only five players to shoot under par Sunday, and only four finished under for the tournament.
"The conditions were tough," Watson said. "They were not easy, but you should be able to hit a fairway with a 3-iron like on No. 13."
Watson is known for his ability to play in the wind, but it didn't keep him out of trouble Sunday.
Watson put his tee shot in a fairway bunker on the par-5 11th hole and missed a 6-foot putt for bogey, tapping in for a double-bogey. He missed another short putt on the 12th hole and made bogey, then lost another stroke on 13 when a 6-foot par putt circled the hole and rimmed out.
Watson later put his tee shot behind a shrub on the par-4 15th hole. His club brushed the bush on his follow-through and his ball trickled forward about 20 yards into more long grass. He would chip on and three-putt for another double-bogey.
For all his success in major tournaments on the PGA Tour, Watson has never won a U.S. Senior Open in eight tries. He finished second in three of the previous five, most recently in front of a partisan crowd in his home state of Kansas in the final round of last year's senior open, when Watson lost to Doyle.
"I just didn't have it on the back 9," Watson said. "I just put the ball in trouble way too many times to have a chance to win this golf tournament."