Monday, January 25, 2010

US Champions Tour on Hawaii

Tom Watson with the championship trophy on Hawaii. Image (by John Condon) by courtesy of the US PGA Tour website. Click on it to enlarge.

Tom Watson birdies 17-18 to pip Fred Couples

Sixty years young and two wins in a row. What a start to the year for Tom Watson. And to think that many of us thought his loss of the Open championship which was within his grasp at Turnberry last July might be a bridge too far for one of the game's most popular and successful campaigners.
But, on Sunday, at Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, "Old Tom" became the 13th oldest player ever to win on the US Champions (Seniors) Tour. He had to birdie the final two holes for a one-shot victory over the new kid on the block, Fred Couples, in the over-50s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championhip.
"This is what I live for in my career -- to do what I did today," Watson said. "I don't think I'll have too many more, but I had this one."
Following up a win with Jack Nicklaus in the Wendy's Champions Skins Game at Kaanapali the previous weekend, Watson signed off with a seven-under-par 65 for a 54-hole total of 22-under 194.
It is his 13th Champions Tour title and his first victory in 34 career starts on Hawaii on the two tours.
The climax to Watson's performance came after he drove into the rough on the right at the last. But he hit a great second shot with a wedge from 147yd out, the ball rolling on to the green and coming to rest 4ft from the stick. Now, if he could only have done that at the 18th hole back at Turnberry!
Couples closed with a flawless 64. His birdie putt from 15ft just missed at the last hole.
Watson calmly sank the winner and waved his cap to the roaring crowd, ending a memorable duel he dubbed "young kid versus old fart."
"I didn't win last year. That's how I judge my year," he said. "If I win a golf tournament, it's a success. So I started off the year with a success."
The 39-time US PGA Tour winner is the oldest Champions Tour winner since Gil Morgan in the 2007 Wal-mart First-Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Last year, there were no winners older than 55, something Watson early in the week said he hoped to "rectify."
Watson played the back nine brilliantly in all three rounds. On Sunday he had five birdies over that stretch, compared with six on each of the first two rounds. Couples had actually sneaked past him into the lead with a birdie at the 16th.
"I had a wonderful time. I think I was 21 under par and didn't win a tournament. That hasn't happened too many times," said Couples, who was trying to become the 16th player to win his Champions Tour debut.
The 15-time US PGA Tour winner has not won since the 2003 Shell Houston Open but the over-50s tour opens up new horizons for him.
For his victory, Watson takes home $315,000.
Michael Allen birdied the final hole for a 66 to finish third at 18 under, a stroke ahead of Tom Lehman (68). Both men played last week in the US PGA Tour's Sony Open.
The 64-year-old Irwin, a two-time champion at Hualalai, closed with a 64 to finish fifth at 14 under. It was his second top-10 finish in a row after going 41 straight tournaments without one.
Par 216 (3x72)
194 Tom Watson 63 66 65
195 Fred Couples 65 66 64
198 Michael Allen 66 66 66
200 Tom Lehman 65 67 68
202 Hale Irwin 67 67 68
203 Phil Blackmar 66 67 70, Keith Fergus 67 69 67, Mike Goodes 68 66 69
204 Bernhard Langer (Ger) 68 68 68, Mark Wiebe 69 68 67
205 Bruce Lietzke 67 69 69, Mark O'Meara 68 65 72
206 Loren Roberts 69 68 69, Corey Pavin 67 68 71, Andy North 71 65 70, Nick Price (Zim) 66 71 69
207 Andy Bean 71 70 66, Peter Jacobsen 67 70 70, Ben Crenshaw 72 68 67, Mark McNulty (Irl) 69 69 69, Jay Haas 70 67 70
208 John Cook 68 68 72, Jeff Sluman 71 70 67
209 Brad Bryant 68 72 69
210 D A Weibring 70 72 68, Dan Forsman 66 71 73
211 Bruce Vaughan 69 69 73, Allen Doyle 68 73 70, Tom Pernice junior 75 68 68
212 Mike Reid 71 68 73, Bobby Wadkins 71 69 72, Jerry Pate 71 69 72
213 R.W. Eaks 72 69 72
219 Denis Watson (Zim) 74 73 72, Curtis Strange 71 73 75
226 Gary Player (Rsa) 76 74 76



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