Golf

Tom Watson wins Senior PGA Championship in playoff

Tom Watson held the Alfred S. Bourne 
Trophy after beating David Eger on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday at Valhalla 
Golf Club in Louisville.
Tom Watson held the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy after beating David Eger on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.

LOUISVILLE — Tom Watson is 61 now, and even though he has the spirit and tenacity of a man half his age, he concedes that he wonders how much longer he can play winning golf.

But not so fast, Father Time.

Tom Watson still has the heart of a sports warrior as he proved by winning the 72nd Senior PGA Championship on a windy, steam-baked Sunday afternoon at Valhalla.

Watson beat David Eger on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim his sixth senior major to go with eight he won on the PGA Tour.

On Saturday, Watson said his drive to compete and win defines him. But after his Sunday triumph, he admitted he was surprised by what he had accomplished.

"Winning again, gosh, I'm 61," he said, his eyes wide. "I'm kind of living on borrowed time out here now.

"I don't think it's an age thing. I've been out here a long time ...

"This is a major championship for us, and if this is the last tournament I ever win, it's not a bad one to win."

Sunday's final round was, in Watson's words, "a horse race, and everybody was nose-to-nose."

Hale Irwin and Kiyoshi Murota began the day with a one-shot lead on Watson, and they all shared the top of the leader board at some point with Eger, who came off the pace with a final-round 67.

Irwin and Murota weren't around at the end, however, because of balky putters.

That left the stage to Watson and Eger, 59, a former golf administrator who had scant experience in this kind of pressure cooker.

Watson made clutch putts on the back nine, notably a five-footer for par at the 13th, a 10-footer for par at the 14th and a 22-footer from the fringe for birdie at the 15th.

Eger birdied the 10th and 15th, bogeyed the 16th, and birdied the 17th.

He stepped to the 18th tee figuring he needed birdie to at least get in a playoff. He gave himself a chance, but he yanked a 4-foot putt that would've gotten him to 11-under for the tournament.

That left the door open for Watson, who was two groups behind Eger. Watson came to the par-5 18th knowing a birdie would win it.

His second shot slid off the left side of the green, and he chipped up to within 5 feet. But his birdie attempt wasn't close. He wound up with a 2-under 70, his fourth sub-par round of the week.

Watson and Eger returned to the 18th tee for the playoff, and Watson immediately got the edge with a drive in the fairway. Eger's ball was in the rough, just above a bunker that made for an awkward stance.

Eger had to lay up, leaving himself 100 yards to the pin. Watson went for the green, and even though he came up short, he was pleased that he landed in the front bunker with a perfect lie.

Eger's third shot left him with a 10-foot birdie try. Watson's sand shot stopped just 3 feet from the cup.

Eger missed, Watson made, and Watson hoisted the championship trophy.

"Competing is why I'm out here," he said. "I enjoy putting myself under pressure to hit shots. That's my make-up. That's what I do."

Eger said it was "the ultimate mulligan in life" to be able to compete with legends such as Watson and Irwin.

"I watched these great players for years from a golf cart, and it's not a bad feeling to come out and play reasonably well against them," he said. "I feel comfortable in my own skin."

Irwin, who began the final day tied with Murota in the lead, came up short in his bid to become the oldest senior tour winner in history.

Irwin, who'll turn 66 on Friday, played well enough from tee to green, but his putter betrayed him. He burned the lip of the cup a half-dozen times, including at the 17th and 18th, and shot a 73 to finish fourth.

Murota, hoping for his first victory in the United States, was tied for the lead after 10 holes, but bogeys at the 11th and 12th cost him. He birdied the 18th for a 72 and finished third.

Kentuckian Kenny Perry, who said before the tournament he was hoping for some "magic" at Valhalla this week, never found a spark.

After a rain-interrupted 69 in the first round, Perry was even par over the last three days and finished tied for 22nd.

Louisvillian Ted Schulz had one of the best final rounds — a 68 — which left him 2-over for the tournament.

Jeff Sluman had the most volatile final round, with eight birdies, five pars, a triple bogey, double bogey and three bogeys for an even-par 72.

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