Watson looks to rebound at Senior British Open

Tom Watson, British Open
Robert Beck/SI
Tom Watson was one stroke away from winning his sixth claret jug.

SUNNINGDALE, England (AP) — Tom Watson is ready to start picking on guys his own age again.

After coming within an 8-foot putt of becoming golf's oldest major champion at the British Open last weekend, Watson is displaying reserves of stamina unexpected from a 59-year-old as he tries for a fourth Senior British Open title.

[In early play at Sunningdale, Watson still had his superior form. He was three under, tied for second with, among others, Greg Norman, Sam Torrance and Tom Kite. Jay Haas and Loren Roberts are tied for the lead at four under. Live scores available at europeantour.com].

Watson said he only had one hour of sleep after he bogeyed the 72nd hole and then lost a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry on Sunday, but was right back on the course to play full rounds at Sunningdale on Monday and Tuesday. He followed that with an extensive session on the practice range before the tournament opens Thursday.

"My mom and dad were flexible and in good shape well into their 70s," Watson said, when asked where he found his energy. "I come from good genes there."

Watson would be forgiven for spending his days lamenting that final putt at the 18th hole at Turnberry, but says he is more interested in looking to the future.

"This, too, shall pass," he said. "It's onward to the next week and forget what you did in the past, except where it might help you play better golf."

He may need his best golf to hold off this year's senior Open field, considered one of the strongest in the history of the event. It's headed by Bernhard Langer, easily the most dominant player on the Champions Tour this year with four victories and earnings of almost $1.5 million, twice as much as second-place Andy Bean.

Three other top Europeans from the same era - Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo - are also in the field along with all the leading Americans.

Langer has been a hugely successful senior since turning 50 late in 2007.

"Things have been going quite well," said the German, who won the 1985 European Open at Sunningdale. "It's a very unique course, just fabulous. We are in the middle of the country and it has a linksy look to it. It's a very good test of golf."

At 6,616 yards, it is fairly short by Champions Tour standards.

"But at the same time, we can't hit driver here on many holes because it doesn't pay to hit driver and bring in all the trouble," Langer said. "So that makes the second shot longer."

Langer was not surprised by Watson's Open performance.

"It was terrific. I don't think people realize how high the level of play is on the Champions or Senior Tours," Langer said. "It's difficult to win out there because there are so many great players."

One of Langer's great regrets was never winning the British Open. He was second twice and third on four occasions, most recently in 2001.

"It was definitely a disappointment. This would probably be the next best thing to it," he said. "I don't think anything makes up for the British Open, but this would be a close second."

Greg Norman, who challenged for the British Open title last year before faltering on the final round, is trying to bounce back from a missed cut last week caused by back problems.

Watson will be trying to keep alive his unique streak of winning the event every other year, after taking the title in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

"Keeping the sequence would be nice," he said.

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