Legendary Kansas City golf professional Tom Watson will have a big boost in next week's annual Watson Challenge in his home city after capturing his first major championship on the professional tour since 2007, winning the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday. Watson, a 14-time winner on the Champions Tour, formerly known as the PGA Seniors Tour, outdueled David Eger in a one-hole playoff at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., after shooting a final-round two-under-par 70 to tie Eger with a 10-under score of 278 after 72 holes in regulation.
Watson entered the final round on Sunday a shot back of the leader, Hale Irwin, with a score of 208 after three rounds ((70-70-68). Eger, with four Championship Tour wins in his 10 years on the seniors' tour, was four shots back at 211. Watson took the lead outright for the first time in the tournament with a birdie on the seventh hole on Sunday. From there, the two golfers battled each other back and forth, in and out of the lead. They went to the 18th hole tied, and both had a chance to win the tournament on the final hole, but missed short putts, sending the affair into overtime.
"I really didn't give myself any chance coming into the tournament the way I was practicing before the tournament last week in Kansas City," Watson said in his post-tournament comments. Watson made some adjustments to his swing just ahead of the tournament start on Thursday. What he did must have worked. "The swing started working again," he said, "and it felt very good for most shots."
The Kansas City native, who won eight majors - five of them in what was previously called the British Open, two Masters' titles and a U.S. Open - and 39 tournaments total while playing on the PGA Tour, is the oldest golfer to win the Senior PGA Championship since the Champions Tour was formed in 1999. Jack Hutchison won this tournament in 1947 at the age of 62. Watson won his first Senior PGA Championship exactly 10 years and two days from his triumph on Sunday.
"I didn't take much time with the putt," Watson said about his winning stroke on the 18th hole in the first playoff hole Sunday. "I took one practice swing and figured, ‘Let's get this over with.'"
Watson will take on the best golfers in Kansas City June 10-12 in his annual Watson Challenge, to be held this year at Blue Hills Country Club. This will be the fifth year for this particular format, which combines the best club professionals in the area, the beat local amateurs and select invitees in a 54-hole medal-play tournament. Watson is the defending champion and has won three of the previous four Challenge events. Only in the tournament's first year did Watson go down to defeat, losing to Hallbrook Country Club assistant professional Blake Graham at Hallbrook.
In summing up his first major championship win in four years, Watson said: "If this is the last tournament I win, it's not a bad one to win."
Something tells me we haven't heard the last of Tom Watson yet.