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Archive for Friday, June 30, 2006

Watson to take last shot at hometown victory

K.C. golfing legend optimistic about chances against younger players

June 30, 2006

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— Tom Watson is set to make one more stab this week at one of the few career goals to elude him, capturing a professional tournament championship in front of his hometown fans.

Twice in the past five years, the popular Kansas City native has come oh so close, finishing runner-up to wisecracking Dana Quigley. He finished one stroke behind Quigley in his first Champions Tour tournament in Kansas City. Then, in last year's rain-shortened event, he and Gil Morgan lost a sudden-death playoff to Quigley in the tournament's first staging at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate layout.

Sometimes called Kansas City's third professional franchise along with the Chiefs and Royals, Watson always draws by far the biggest gallery. He grew up in Kansas City and has remained an active, contributing member of the community.

But soon to turn 57, he's already past the 50-to-55 age group that's won more than 80 percent of the tournaments since the over-50 tour was created.

Time may be running out.

"I've been practicing a lot. I'm pretty close with my golf swing right now," said Watson, who's finished no lower than fifth in his last four tournaments. "It was just a little bit sketchy. I got an adjustment from a couple of people who were watching me a couple of days ago."

Other players to watch in the 54-hole tournament that begins today include Jay Haas, 52, the Champions Tour money leader; Loren Roberts, 51, who is second on the money list; and Quigley, 59, who's been fighting health issues this year but finished fourth at the Senior PGA Championship.

Despite handing the town and Watson a big disappointment, Quigley has become something of a fan favorite in Kansas City himself.

"I've had good luck against Tom Watson here," he said. "If you beat the guy who owns the town, you earn their respect and I think I've done that here."

Quigley is no longer the Champions Tour iron man who plays every week, every year.

"I'm feeling fine. Not dizzy anymore," he said. "I probably need to slow down a little bit. I'm almost 60 but I feel like I'm 16. I know I'll play well here and it makes a difference when you have that feeling after you start the tournament."

Watson announced Thursday that he will sponsor "the Watson Cup," an annual tournament at Hallbrook Country Club to determine the best golfer in the greater Kansas City area.

But first he would like to win a tournament in his hometown.

"There will be a lot of people I know. It will be fun," he said. "In a sense, it puts extra pressure on me because I'd like to win. Not only for myself, but to say I've won an event here in Kansas City. The last time I won here was in 1971, the Missouri Amateur."

Hot, dry weather predicted for the rest of the week should help. Last year's event was marred by rain.

"If the conditions get windy and sloppy and wet, I'm not as good a player anymore in those conditions," Watson said. "I don't hit the ball as high in the air and when it's wet, it's good to hit the ball high and get the extra carry."

Watson's biggest obstacle could be Haas, who already has won three times this year.

"I am playing well. I'm confident," Haas said. "I feel comfortable when I'm on the golf course. I love the hot weather. I grew up in southern Illinois just outside of St. Louis, so I feel like I'm close to home here and know what to expect weather-wise.

"I like my position. I like the way I'm playing."

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