Watson at the PGA? Not likely
NEW YORK – Even though he came within an 8-foot putt of winning the British Open, Tom Watson didn’t sound terribly interested Tuesday in playing the PGA Championship next month in Minnesota.
First, though, he would need an invitation to the only major he never won.
PGA of America spokesman Julius Mason confirmed that the 59-year-old Watson is not exempt for the PGA Championship, which will be held Aug. 13-16 at Hazeltine.
Speculation arose during Watson’s press conference at Sunningdale for the Senior British Open that his runner-up finish at Turnberry was enough to get into the PGA Championship.
“What week is that?” Watson said. “I’ve got a full schedule coming up.”
Told that it would be nice to see him win the PGA and complete the career Grand Slam, Watson chuckled and said, “Right now I wouldn’t hold my breath that I’m going to be playing the PGA.”
Watson is No. 124 in the PGA points standings, which take the top 70. He moved up to No. 105 in the world ranking, and the PGA Championship tries to get as many players as possible from the top 100.
Mason said Watson would be considered for an invitation.
“He’s being reviewed, along with other players,” Mason said, adding that the PGA would not decide on the rest of its exemptions until Aug. 3.
It already has awarded spots to 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan and Tom Lehman, a former Ryder Cup captain and major champion who grew up in Minnesota.
Watson was on the verge of becoming the oldest major champion ever when he had a one-shot lead playing the final hole at Turnberry. His 8-iron bounced over the green, he missed an 8-foot par putt, then wound up losing by six shots to Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff.
Watson has won more major championships on links courses than anyone – five British Opens and three Senior British Opens – which enabled him to beat some players younger than his own children.
Hazeltine is 7,674 yards and plays as a par 72, with three of the par 5s longer than 600 yards.
“There are certain courses that you can play and that you can compete on and do well,” Watson said. “Not all of them, but there are certain ones. And Turnberry was one for me.”
The PGA Championship is the only major Watson never won. The closest he came was in 1978 at Oakmont, when he shot 73 in the last round and lost in a playoff won by John Mahaffey.
He has not played in the PGA since 2003 at Oak Hill, where he shot 75-75 and missed the cut.