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Tom Watson hanging with the youngsters

By Tommy Atkinson, Staff writer

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Tom Watson continues to defy age.

The Greenbrier pro emeritus again held his own against the PGA Tour’s young guns during Saturday’s third round of the Greenbrier Classic, shooting a 2-under-par 68 for the second straight day on the par-70 Old White TPC.

The 64-year-old Watson’s 3-under 207 puts him in the top 50 of the remaining 89 players left after Friday’s cut. Watson, who is also this year’s Ryder Cup captain, shot a 2-under 68 Friday to make his third straight weekend at the Classic.

Watson began Saturday’s round with three birdies and two bogeys for a 1-under 33 on the front nine. On the back nine, The Kansas City, Mo., native only mustered one birdie but stayed out of trouble, parring the last eight holes for a 1-under 35. Watson opened with a 1-over 71 Thursday, but has steadily improved each round.

“I played a good round of golf today,’’ said Watson, an eight-time major champion. “I made a few more mistakes, but I made four birdies. I’m getting better with the birdies. I made two the first day, three the second day and four today. Maybe I can go low the last day.’’

Watson tied for 38th in the Greenbrier Classic last year, which is quite a feat considering Tiger Woods failed to make the cut in his lone year competing in the Classic and Phil Mickelson never made the cut in two consecutive trips to the Classic.

“I don’t know how remarkable it is,’’ said Watson of keeping up with players half his age. “I’ve got a little home-course advantage. Still, it’s a tough golf course.

“There’s still certain holes that really test me from a length standpoint. I made some good decisions today and a couple of bad ones and a couple of bad swings, but I got up and down when I had to and that was the key to my round today.’’

Sam Snead, who was the pro emeritus at The Greenbrier before Watson, holds the record as the oldest player to make a cut on the PGA Tour at 67 years old. Snead also owns marks as the oldest to win a tournament and the highest finish in a major.

“Being from The Greenbrier and the pro emeritus after Sam, there’s a lot of history here,’’ said Watson, who has won 39 times on the Tour. “I always admired the way Sam played the game.

“He had a marvelous touch and rhythm to his golf swing. My dad’s favorite swinger of the golf club. When I was growing up my dad said, ‘You gotta swing like Snead, son.’ Well, I never swung like Snead. I never swung with that type of rhythm.’’

Just like Snead, though, Watson has continued to play at a high level well into his golden years. Watson battled for the British Open championship in 2009 before losing in a playoff.

This year’s Open will take place July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, and Watson will be there.

“I am looking forward to Hoylake and the Open Championship,’’ said Watson. “I played there a few years back and it was really hot and really dry and a little bouncy.

“I understand it’s in great shape now and a little greener than it was back then. I love going over there to play those links golf courses. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s like a box of chocolates.’’

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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