TIMONIUM, Md. —
If Tom Watson was looking for a sign that luck was on his side at
the Senior Players Championship, he got it on the 13th hole at the
Baltimore Country Club.
Seeking his second birdie on what
would turn out to be a bogey-free round, Watson let loose a 50-foot
Bottom of the cup.
"I was just trying to get close,
cozy it down there, and it went in the hole," he said. "It
was a nice surprise."
Watson shot a 68 on a windy Friday
for a 6-under 134 at the midway point of the fifth major on the
Champions Tour. Seeking his first win of the year, Watson leads four
players by two strokes.
Craig Stadler shot a 65 for a 136,
tied with Bob Tway (68), Jay Haas (70) and Mark Wiebe (67).
Bernhard Langer sank six birdies for
a 65 to come in at 137, along with Loren Roberts (67) and John Cook
Lonnie Nielsen, who started the day
with a one-shot lead over Watson and Haas, was done in by a
double-bogey on the 452-yard, par-4 13th hole and finished with a
Watson returned to the limelight last
July when he shined at the British Open, threatening to become the
oldest player to win a PGA Tour major before finally falling to
Stewart Cink in a playoff.
On the Champions Tour, however, the
60-year-old Watson has not finished better than fourth in nine
tournaments. This week, on a very difficult course, he is playing
like a man who will not be denied.
"I drove the ball very well.
That makes it a lot easier when you're driving the ball in the
fairway," he said. "The rough is not for old folks like
me. It's hard to get out of it."
Having won dozens of tournaments and
more than $22 million during his illustrious career, Watson has no
need for another trophy and isn't in it for the money. Playing
against talented foes under pressure over 18 challenging holes is
what keeps him going.
"My motivation is still the
competition. I like the golf course here. It's a big course, you
have to hit a lot of quality shots," Watson said. "To hit
that quality shot when the chips are down, that's what I'm out here
for. Anybody can do it in a friendly match."
Stadler rebounded from an opening 71
by sinking five birdies on the front nine. A misplaced drive into
the bunker led to a bogey on the par-3 11th hole, but he rebounded
with a birdie on 16.
"I was very pleased with the way
I played. I putted wonderfully," he said. "For some reason
today I kind of saw 'em good, rolled them on line and pretty much
made every putt that was makable except an 8-footer on 4. It was
nice for a change, very enjoyable. It makes golf fun again when you
Stadler called the wind "pretty
blustery at times," and applauded Watson for his ability to
battle through it.
"He cherishes bad conditions,
the wind. It didn't rain today, but those are what he likes,"
Stadler said. "He's obviously playing well."
After his second straight 68, Tway
said, "Today the wind was exactly the opposite of yesterday, so
the golf course played entirely different. The holes that played
short yesterday played long, and vice versa. But I was pleased with
the way I played."
Tway started with a bogey at No. 1,
but bounced back with three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6 and nailed
a 10-foot birdie putt at 9. He played the back nine at 1 over.
The last threesome Saturday will be
Watson, Wiebe and, much to his delight, Tway.
"I saw that (Watson) was
leading, and I was just hoping to play good enough to play with him
again," said Tway, part of a threesome with Watson in August in
the JELD-WEN Tradition. "I've always enjoyed playing with him.
He's so good, and such a professional. You learn something."