TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. –– Just when you expected players at the 74th Senior PGA Championship to act their age, along came Tom Watson to prove the time-honored adage that, indeed, age is just a number.
The two-time Senior PGA champion (2001 and ’11) hit the ball better in Friday’s second round, though he scored two shots higher than in Thursday’s opener, and through 36 holes at Bellerive Country Club, the 63-year-old Watson is in position to turn back the clock once again. He’s at 2-under 140, tied for eighth and five strokes behind a pair of co-leading Kentuckians, Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry.
“It was a lot different than yesterday,” Watson said. “Today I hit every fairway [the official stats had him going 13-for-14] and hit a lot of good shots. But then I three-putted twice, hit the ball in the water twice – and once was a good shot. So it could have been a decent round if I didn’t make those lousy shots.”
Watson has only had parts of his game in each of the first two days. He drained a couple of long par putts to salvage a 2-under-par 69 on Thursday, and on Friday, his driving and irons were sharper.
“I’m a little bit more satisfied with my round today, but I’m not as satisfied with the score,” said Watson. “Sometimes you just have to have a day like yesterday, to . . . use some other tools in your tool box . . . to make it happen. If I could putt the way I did the first day the next two days and drive the ball and hit some quality irons like I did today, I may have a chance.”
Both Perry and Cochran, who grew up in the same town, Paducah, and have been lifelong friends, advanced to the top of the leaderboard on the strength of 5-under 66s. Cochran was at 8 under until he bogeyed Bellerive’s famed par-3 sixth, which has played as the toughest hole through two days. Perry was bogey-free on the day and got up and down following each of the three greens he missed.
“Russ is kind of the guy I always looked up to,” said Perry. “I was a freshman at Lone Oak High School when he was a junior there at St. Mary’s in Paducah. Russell was the man. He was the big guy on campus, as you would say. He was one of the reason why I got as good as I did – because I tried to aspire to be a lot like Russ. It’s been pretty neat to play alongside him for the the last two days.”
For much of Friday, it appeared as though a stunning development would be produced as Bernhard Langer, the Champions Tour’s only multiple winner so far this year, wouldn’t be around for the weekend. The cut was at 2 over par after Langer put the finishing touches on a second-round 67, a full dozen strokes better than his opening 79, but through the afternoon the number climbed and finally settled at 4-over 146. Langer ended up right on the number, as did defending champion Roger Chapman and former PGA Championship winners Jeff Sluman, Hal Sutton and Lanny Wadkins.
“A lot better,” said Langer, who arrived at Bellerive with a top-10 finish in each of his last six starts in Champions Tour majors. “I hit some balls last night and found something that obviously worked. I hit a lot more (three) fairways today, a lot more (five) greens today.”
Langer’s 79 on Thursday was his highest score in 23 Champions Tour majors and he’s never missed a cut in a senior major since he turned 50 in 2007. Trying to overcome balls in the water at four different holes, he managed to break 80 on Thursday only with a birdie at his final hole; his round included back-to-back triple bogeys.
“Nothing really went my way,” he said.