Kansas City's own Tom Watson is among the 90 golfers in the star-studded invitational field competing this week in the 76th annual Masters golf tournament at the historic Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club. The legendary Kansas City golfer shot a five-over-par 77 in the opening round of the 2012 Masters, two shots better than his Thursday round at this tournament a year ago.
Watson is 10 strokes back of the leader, Lee Westwood, from England, after day one of the tradition-laden tournament.
The 62-year-old Watson is a two-time champion of this legendary tournament, considered the granddaddy of the major championships in professional golf and the first of the PGA major championships every year. Watson has won six other major championships in addition to his Masters' titles and 39 tournaments total on the PGA Tour in his illustrious pro career.
Watson, whose tournament play these days is almost exclusively devoted to the PGA Tour's seniors level on the Champions Tour, does try to play every year in the Masters. He no longer is considered one of the favorites to win, but he is always one of the crowd favorites when he plays, as the owner of two green Masters jackets that are awarded each year to the tournament winner.
The Kansas City native has won 14 times on the Champions Tour, to go with his 39 tour wins on the regular PGA Tour circuit. This year, he is playing in his 38th Masters tournament. His first year at the Masters was in 1975. He finished tied for eighth that year, nine shots behind the great Jack Nicklaus, who owns the most Masters' wins with six. Gary Player holds the record for playing in the most Masters at 52. Player played in his first Masters in 1957 and competed for the final time at Augusta in 2009.
Two years later, in 1977, Watson won his first green jacket, outdueling the great Jack Nicklaus by two strokes with a four-round score of 12-under 276. Watson won again four years later, at the age of 31, beating Johnny Miller, now a golf commentator for NBC Sports, and Nicklaus.
At 62, the seemingly ageless Watson is not likely to win a third green jacket, but he is clearly capable of making the cut and playing into the weekend, a feat that few golfers his age have been able to accomplish. Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers of all time and one of the three honorary starters for this year's Masters, owns the record for the oldest golfer to make the weekend cutline at the Masters. Player, a South African who was also known for wearing black, played all four rounds at the Masters in 1995, when he was 62. That broke his own record, set three years earlier, in 1995, when he was 59.
Watson missed the cut at the Masters last year. He shot an even-par 72 the second day, but had bloomed to seven-over 79 in the opening round, which pretty much doomed his chances of playing into the weekend. The Stanford graduate (the same school where Tiger Woods went) did make the cut at Augusta in 2010, however, when he was 60. Watson finished tied for 18th two years ago, 15 shots back of the winner, Phil Mickelson, who won his third Masters' green jacket that year.
Watson has some work to do if he wants to avoid the cut after Friday's second round, when the field is trimmed back for the final two days over the weekend. If he does make the cut, however, he would tie Player as the oldest golfer to accomplish the feat.
The oldest player to win a Masters was Nicklaus. The Golden Bear was 46 when he won his sixth and last Masters tournament in 1986.
For more news and information about the 76th edition of The Masters, go to the official tournament website
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