Watson Set to Steady His Game, as Usual, in Bay Hill Tournament

Associated Press

It's turnaround time for Tom Watson.

"I haven't been playing very well. I play pretty well in spots, but I'm not consistent. And that's the thing you want to have, consistency," Watson said before a practice round for the $500,000 Hertz Bay Hill golf tournament that begins today.

Although he has not won this tournament, Watson frequently has used it as a turning point.

Last year was a good example.

Watson had missed three cuts in a row before Bay Hill. Here, however, he was in title contention until he chopped up the 72nd hole, bouncing a shot off the cart path and over the gallery.

It dropped him back into a tie for ninth, but served as a stepping stone to a record sixth Player of the Year title.

This year, Watson missed the cut in his last start, then took his usual two-week break at the start of the Florida swing.

"I went home, got to know the kids again--after four weeks--and practiced some. It was nice to get home but, after 13 years out here, two weeks really isn't enough," he said.

Traditionally, he returns to action in this event and, in five years, has finished lower than ninth only once.

"I do have a good history here, so that's encouraging," said Watson, who has only one Top 10 finish to show for four starts this season.

Opposing him in the 107-man invitational field chasing a $90,000 first prize is a lineup that includes U.S. and British Open champions Fuzzy Zoeller and Seve Ballesteros, Masters titleholder Ben Crenshaw, defending champion Gary Koch and tournament host Arnold Palmer.

The tournament also marks the return to action of Lanny Wadkins, a record-setting winner of two early-season titles who is coming off a four-week vacation, and Australian Greg Norman.

Norman, who now owns a home at Bay Hill, has played only once in the U.S. this season and is returning from a brief swing around the Asian tour. A playoff loser in this tournament two years ago, he also was in contention here last year.

Also on hand are Ray Floyd, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Larry Nelson, David Graham, South African Denis Watson, former Bay Hill winner Andy Bean, Craig Stadler, Curtis Strange, a winner last week in the Honda Classic, and Mark O'Meara, a two-time winner this year.

NBC will provide national television coverage of portions of the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

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