Senior Tour Ready for Watson's Impact

He turns 50 in two months and two days, so Tom Watson must be pinching himself, wondering how he's going to cart all that money away, the stuff that's just going to fall right at his feet when he starts playing the Senior PGA Tour.

Right? Well, not exactly.

"[Jack] Nicklaus told me when we were talking about the senior tour, he said, 'Tom, these guys can really play out here,' " Watson said. " 'It's not a cakewalk.' "

Maybe not, but chances are pretty good it's going to be something like a money walk for Watson.

The senior tour has not seen anyone the likes of Watson since Arnold Palmer came out--and neither Palmer nor Nicklaus ever really played a full schedule.

In fact, when Watson appears as a full-time player on the senior tour, he could very well be the biggest, most important figure the old-timers have ever had.

Five British Open titles, two Masters championships and one U.S. Open victory, plus 31 other triumphs, automatically elevate Watson to a new level on the senior tour.

On a tour basically devoid of superstars, now that Palmer, Nicklaus and Chi Chi Rodriguez have bit parts and players such as Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan have been dominant, Watson offers a much-needed big-time presence that ought to shake the senior tour out of its corporate hospitality lethargy.

Lanny Wadkins and Tom Kite also turn 50 this year, so Watson is likely to have some competition in the scoop-up-the-money race.

Watson says he will play his first Senior PGA Tour event at the Comfort Classic at Indianapolis, Sept. 10-12.

He wanted to play the week before in his hometown of Kansas City, but his birthday misses the cut-off for entry by three days. He asked Commissioner Tim Finchem about the chances for a waiver, but Finchem said it wouldn't be fair and Watson agreed.

Lee Trevino, with help from Jim Colbert and Dave Stockton, has talked about getting a petition signed to allow Watson to play in his hometown, but that's not likely to go anywhere.

In any event, Watson says he is ready.

"I expect it to be very, very tough to win out there," he said. "I'm going to have to be ready and competitive.

"But I will say, I'm not going out there just to go around the golf courses. I'm not going out there and think it's a walk in the park, either, because it's not. I'm going out there to try to win."

We'll just see how long that takes.


Now that Juli Inkster has won her second major in a month, it should be noted that the last LPGA player to win three majors in one year was Pat Bradley in 1986.

Can Inkster win the du Maurier Classic and complete a neat hat trick? With her choice of head wear, better make that the visor trick.

Anyway, the way Inkster is playing, anything seems possible. At 39, she has saved the very best for the last part of her 16-year career.

Consider that in her victories at the U.S. Open and the LPGA Championship, Inkster was a combined 32 under par. In her 14 events this year, she has 11 top-10 finishes.

She also knows how to win in rousing fashion. She closed out the LPGA Championship with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish.

"I hope it brings a lot of focus to women's golf," she said. "I wish not only for me, but for my fellow pros that we get the acknowledgment that I think we deserve."

What Inkster deserves is something else. She's just one point short of automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.

Inkster, by the way, just committed to defend her Diners Club title with partner Dottie Pepper in December at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach.


Ben Crenshaw was moved to tears while watching a Ryder Cup video during a chat with reporters this week in New York, so what's he going to do when they actually start playing in September?

Crenshaw needs to knock that stuff off or he's going to wind up in the same situation as the losing captains who preceded him. Wadkins and Kite were seen as pushovers.

Crenshaw has tried to position himself as a hard-edged type, which is exactly the correct attitude. He must have realized that too, because he recovered nicely after his eyes misted over during the video love fest.

"This is not a picnic," Crenshaw said of the Ryder Cup. "You can't expect flowers and roses going through this path."

Advice to Crenshaw: If you handle this correctly, you will be laughing afterward, not crying.


News item: Tiger Woods and IMG ask Nike to change the "billboards" at the end of two Woods TV commercials because the spots look like ads for golf balls and Woods already has a golf ball deal with Titleist.

Reaction: Good news . . . the war is over! Nike switched the "billboards" from a Nike golf logo to its swoosh trademark, accompanied by its 'Just Do It" slogan.


Here's some fallout from Annika Sorenstam's less-than-terrific--13 events, no victories--year: Her caddie is a memory.

That would be Colin Cann, who walked away after Sorenstam's 73 in the first round of the LPGA Championship.

According to GolfWorld, Sorenstam and Cann were debating Cann's club selection after the round when David Esch, Sorenstam's husband, joined the conversation.

Cann handed Esch the yardage book and said, "If you know so much, you do it."

Cann was later quoted as saying, "Annika's a very selfish player, and maybe I'm not the best for her."

Cann also said he might come back to Sorenstam. Uh, maybe not after she reads those quotes, Colin.


For what it's worth, David Duval is the first player in PGA Tour history to pass $3 million in prize money in one year--at $3,009,455.

All right, money is money, but how about this little fact: In only 4 1/2 years, Duval is already 10th on the all-time PGA Tour money list with $9,415,526.

VALERIE HOGAN: 1911-1999

Three years after the death of her husband, Valerie Hogan died Wednesday at her home in Fort Worth. She was 87.

She stayed out of the public spotlight in her later years but traveled to the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, in June to take part in a ceremony honoring Ben Hogan. She also attended the opening of the Ben Hogan Room at Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., where the USGA has headquarters.

"The travel last month had been rather hard on her," her secretary, Sharon Rea, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Byron Nelson said: "She's always been quiet and done such a great job of seeing after Ben. It's always sad when you say goodbye to people who have been your friends for all these years."


Duffy Waldorf, last week's Buick Classic champion, remains one of the more colorful players on tour, what with clothes that look as if somebody poured them out of a blender.

Anyway, you may know that Waldorf's family writes messages on his golf balls to keep him focused.

On Saturday, he made an eagle with a ball that had the New York Knicks' logo on it. He won on Sunday using a ball that said, "It's up to you, NY NY."

Maybe next time, if Waldorf wants that ball to get somewhere in a hurry, he could try this one: "Taxi!"


The Jackie Robinson Foundation tournament will be played Aug. 16 at Wilshire Country Club. The event benefits the foundation. Details: (323) 852-7244.

The Jim Murray Inaugural Golf Classic will be played Aug. 16 at Riviera. The event benefits the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation for journalism scholarships. Details: (818) 344-6195.

The Nordic Cup charity tournament will be played Aug. 30 at the Ocean Course at Pelican Hill. The event benefits the Swedish Seamen's Churches. Details: (909) 696-0346.

The Vince Ferragamo celebrity tournament earned $180,000 for the Special Olympics.

The Verdugo Hills High School football tournament will be held Aug. 7 at de Bell Golf Course in Burbank. Details: (818) 352-3522.

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