Another Close Call For Depressed Watson

By Dave Shedloski
July 28, 2007

Hutchinson, Kan. - In his 56 thyear, and his 35 thas a professional golfer, Tom Watson long ago stopped trying to understand the game at which he has been so successful and learn to accept inexorable fate, no matter how cruel. Victories come at a price, but it's the losses, which for every player far outnumber triumphs, that exact a toll and become ever more taxing.

So there stood Watson Sunday on the interview podium behind the 18 thgreen at Prairie Dunes Country Club displaying a slight grin that seemed to suggest he'd taken a philosophical posture to his latest disappointment in the U.S. Senior Open. Or maybe the weathered lines in his face simply hid his pain and the sour feeling he must have coursing through him better than the countenance belonging to a younger man.

"It's very disappointing," Watson said.

Asked, rather inconsiderately, to rank the toughest losses, Watson responded like an adult and a professional. "I don't rank them," he said patiently. "You set the scene: I'm playing in front of my home crowd at a great golf course, Prairie Dunes, in my home state, and the most important championship in our tour here, and I didn't win."

Allen Doyle did the winning, successfully defending his title in the 27 thSenior Open with a closing 2-under-par 68 and 8-under 272 aggregate total. Watson, of Stillwell, Kan., reprised his role as gentlemanly runner-up after a slow start yielded a 72 and 274 effort. Watson added a third silver medal to his 2002 and '03 prizes, but the big trophy continues to elude the 1982 U.S. Open champion.

It didn't seem like a fitting conclusion, not when you consider that the seven-time major winner from Kansas City, Mo., found himself carried along by a blatantly partisan crowd who may have wanted him to win more than Watson wanted it himself. It didn't seem right when he led after the second and third rounds, the fourth time he had resided in the top five after 54 holes in his seven Senior Open appearances.

But it was fitting in that Doyle played better, as his four sub-par rounds, confirm. Watson had been saying all week that his game was sketchy, and that he couldn't be sure if his form could hold up for 72 holes.

It held up for 55 of them. Then he three-putted the second and third holes for bogeys, added another bogey at the sixth, and had to play catch-up the rest of the day with a putter stroke ill-equipped for such offensive maneuvers.

"That put me in a defensive type of mood," Watson said of his stumble out of the blocks. "I felt like I was playing defense all day, and, as a result, I shot the score I did."

"It's the kind of course where you can make birdies, but no a place where you can make up shots when you're pressing," said Watson's caddie, Todd Newcomb. "We just never got back what we gave away."

There were some high points to the round, like the birdie at the par-5 seventh that represented his seventh of eight bounce-back holes (following a bogey with a birdie). He pulled off the same trick at the 17 thfollowing a bogey at 16, his pitch into the green setting up a tap-in birdie with one remaining that looked like it could have represented a glimmer of hope - until Doyle's 12-footer found the hole and silenced the crowd.

Such positives on an overall disheartening day are the moments Watson will take with him as he competes in three more majors in as many weeks on two tours, with the British Open at Royal Liverpool splitting senior championships.

"I'm going to take some of the positive thoughts that I had … a couple of shots that I hit that really I felt were superb shots and build on those," he said.

"I learned a long time ago you don't live in the past, you live in the present. And you look forward to the future," Watson added. "I'm already thinking about next week. I think it (the loss) will help me."

Of course, he was grinning when he said it.

Tom Watson struck 10 fairways Sunday but ultimately it would be the putter (30 on the day) that would sink him. (John Mummert/USGA)
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