The 59-year-old came close to pulling off the most astonishing victory in British Open history at Turnberry on July 19, but fluffed his lines late on to see the chance to equal the six Claret Jug record set by Harry Vardon way back in 1914 disappear.
By Watson’s own admission “the wheels came off” in the four-hole play-off with fellow American Stewart Cink, who took his first major title at two under par to Watson’s four over.
He continued his fine form last week at the British Senior Open at Sunningdale, finishing joint eighth on seven under par – five shots behind eventual winner Loren Roberts.
The Kansas City-born player finished 13 strokes behind winner Eduardo Romero in a share of 23rd spot at the US Senior Open last year, but appears determined to maintain his impressive recent run at Crooked Stick this week.
“I’ve won the Senior PGA,” said Watson, who missed the cut in the 1991 PGA Championship on this course, which – at 7,244/7,316 yards – is the longest in US Senior Open history. “The Senior Open is the other one I’d like to win the most on the Champions Tour.”
Watson, who missed practice on Tuesday due to illness, has evidently lost none of his hunger.
“It’s just too much in your blood,” he said.
“The competition is too much. And we have the only game where you can continue. Why not take advantage?”
Meanwhile Chris Wood has only two weeks to wait for his next major championship after coming so close to British Open glory at Turnberry.
The 21-year-old, who like Lee Westwood bogeyed the last hole to miss out on the play-off between Tom Watson and Stewart Cink by one shot, is up to 59th in the world. And that guarantees him a start in the US PGA Championship at Hazeltine in Minnesota, starting on August 13.
Wood, who also has a US Masters debut to look forward to next April, had to pull out of last week’s SAS Masters in Sweden after injuring a wrist in the Turnberry rough, but he returns to action in the Czech Republic today.
Fifth in the Open last year as an amateur, the 6ft 5in European Tour rookie is also in position now to represent Britain and Ireland against Continental Europe in the Vivendi Trophy – what used to be the Seve Trophy – in September.
If things stay as they are and everybody makes themselves available, Paul McGinley’s side would be Paul Casey, Westwood, Pádraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher, Rory McIlroy, Oliver Wilson, Robert Rock, Nick Dougherty and Wood.
As Wood came through the qualifying school last November and has not won a tournament yet, he remains a Category 11 player even though he is 31st on the ‘Race To Dubai’ money list.
With a first prize of nearly €336,000 in this week’s Moravia Silesia Open, he could move up as high as 12th on the rankings.