LAKE ORION, Mich. (AP) – Tom Watson and Fred Couples went into the U.S. Senior Open with two of the same goals.
The pair of fan favorites, both shooting for their first U.S. Senior Open title, were to play together along with amateur Douglas Snoap in Thursday's first round at Indianwood.
Watson injured his right wrist, shortly after playing in the Masters, while mowing the lawn on his Kansas farm for six straight hours. That grueling task left him with nerve damage that his doctor told him others get from running jackhammers.
“I was in pretty bad shape after I got off the mower,'' he said.
The 62-year-old Watson took several weeks off, including missing out on a chance to defend his Senior PGA championship at Harbor Shores on the other side of the state, before returning to play earlier this month. He finished tied for 20th at the Senior Players Championship and started off well at the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic, where he made the cut – unlike Tiger Woods – before slumping to a tie for 73rd.
“I finished second from last, so that doesn't say very much,'' Watson said.
The 52-year-old Couples took last week off to rest his oft-injured back, which he said he tweaked earlier this month at the Senior Players Championship.
“I took all last week off and rested my back,'' he said.
Couples is hoping that improves his chances of winning the U.S. Senior Open, an accomplishment that he would rank just below the 1992 Masters and pair of Players Championship titles he has won.
“This would be right under it,'' he said.
Watson doesn't think the winner on Sunday will be under par by more than a few strokes.
USGA officials, meanwhile, insisted they didn't have a target score in mind when they set up a 6,891-yard course with tight fairways, thick rough and small greens that is about 30 miles north of Detroit.
“We do want it to be the toughest test in golf that these players encounter each year,'' USGA executive Jeff Hall said. “They can circle it on the calendar and know, `OK, I'm coming to Indianwood in 2012.' It's going to be a little bit different than what they see every week.''
Watson likes his chances of ending his U.S. Senior Open drought at Indianwood if he improves his inconsistent iron game.
“You've got to drive the ball on the fairway,'' he said. “If you don't, you're going to the Detroit airport on Friday night.''
Watson is hoping he leaves the Motor City with another feat on his resume that includes winning the British Open five times, the Masters twice along with a U.S. Open. He has had success on the Champions Tour, as well, winning three of its five majors, including the Senior PGA last year.
Finishing first at the U.S. Senior Open has been elusive.
“I've come close,'' Watson said. “Come close a couple times.''
Make that a few.
Watson, a three-time runner up at the event, acknowledged that winning the event would mean a great deal.
“This event is a very special event to me,'' he said.