Aberdeen, Scotland — Tom Watson already had won the British Open twice before he figured out the nuances of links golf. So there was no better place for him to end a two-year drought on the Champions Tour.
In Scotland, no less.
Watson matched Des Smyth along the back nine at Royal Aberdeen, then won a sudden-death playoff with par on the third extra hole Sunday to capture the Senior British Open for his fourth senior major.
He also won the Senior British Open two years ago at Turnberry, and Watson won five British Open titles during his PGA Tour career, all but one of them in Scotland.
"I really think that it goes back to my understanding of links golf," Watson said. "Before '79, I didn't particularly like links golf. I was an American golfer. I liked it through the air, hit the ball high, couldn't hit the ball low with much accuracy. ... I finally told myself, 'You know, this game is played on the ground. And you have to expect some bounces.' And I've had some terrible bounces out here. But I've had some great bounces."
Watson closed with a 1-under 70, while Smyth made up a three-shot deficit on the front nine and shot 67. Both finished at 4-under 280.
They made par twice on the 18th hole in the playoff before going to the 187-yard 17th, where Smyth found a pot bunker just right of the green, blasted out to 20 feet and took two putts for bogey. Watson was just beyond the green, but chipped close enough to make par for the victory.
Greg Norman nearly joined the playoff, making birdie on the last hole for a 68 to finish one shot back at 281 in his Champions Tour debut.
It was the second time Kansas City native Watson won the Senior British Open in a playoff. He defeated Carl Mason at Turnberry two years ago, then won another major at the Tradition. He has not won since then.
"This trophy certainly means something to me," the 55-year-old Watson said. "It was something of a struggle, and it looked as if we could have played that 18th hole all night and still been locked together."