Tom Watson is ready to start picking on guys his own age again when the Senior British Open starts on Thursday.
After coming within an 8-foot putt of besting all the top young pros at last week's British Open and becoming golf's oldest major champion, Watson is already displaying reserves of stamina unexpected from a 59-year-old as he tries for a fourth senior Open title.
Watson said he only had one hour of sleep after he bogeyed the 72nd hole and then lost a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry Sunday, but was right back on the course to play full rounds at Sunningdale on Monday and Tuesday. He followed that with an extensive session on the practice range Wednesday. It's all in the genes, he said.
"My mom and dad were flexible and in good shape well into their 70s," Watson said. "I come from good genes there." Watson would be forgiven for spending his days lamenting that final putt at the 18th, but says he is more interested in looking to the future.
"This, too, shall pass," he said. "It's onward to the next week and forget what you did in the past, except where it might help you play better golf."
He may need his very best golf to see off this year's Senior British Open field, seen as the strongest in the history of the event. It is headed by Bernhard Langer, far and away the most dominant player on the Champions Tour this year with four victories and earnings of almost $1.5 million (euro1.06 million), twice as much as second-place Andy Bean.
Three other top Europeans from the same era _ Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo _ are also in the field along with all the leading senior Americans.
Langer has been a hugely successful senior since turning 50 late in 2007.
"Things have been going quite well the last 2-1/2 to three years with some of the best golf I ever played," said the German, who won the 1985 European Open on this layout. "It's a very unique course, just fabulous. We are in the middle of the country and it has a linksy look to it. It's a very good test of golf." At 6,616 yards, it is fairly short by Champions Tour standards, where the average is around 7,000 yards.
"But at the same time, we can't hit driver here on many holes because it doesn't pay to hit driver and bring in all the trouble," he said. "So that makes the second shot longer." Langer was not surprised by Watson's Open performance. "It was terrific. I don't think people realize how high the level of play is on the Champions or Senior Tours," Langer said. "It's difficult to win out there because there are so many great players."
One of Langer's great regrets was never winning the British Open title. He was second twice and third four times, most recently in 2001.
"It was definitely a disappointment. This would probably be the next best thing to it," he said. "I don't think anything makes up for the British Open but this would be a close second." Greg Norman, who challenged for the British Open title last year before faltering on the final round, is looking to bounce back from missing the cut last week as he struggled with a back problem. "My back was bad. But I've had physio every day since and it's much better now," Norman said.
Watson is trying to keep alive his streak of winning the event every other year, after taking the title in 2003, 2005 and 2007. "Keeping the sequence would be nice," he said.