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Even with new hobby, Watson says it’s time to golf

For anyone who has been around long enough, there are a handful of things that trigger nostalgia within them.

Tom Watson said he gets such a feeling every time the calendar turns to March.

“I’m champing at the bit to play,” Watson said. “Every year about this time, I’m thinking about Augusta.

“It just comes up. When March 1 hits, you’re thinking, ‘All right, the first of April, I’ve got to get ready for Augusta. It just happens. Even though I’m not playing, I still have that feeling.”

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Even though he has trimmed down his schedule significantly, the fast-approaching Masters Tournament signals to Watson that it is time to compete. He played just eight tournaments last season, but Watson will partake in the three-day Toshiba Classic, which starts Friday at Newport Beach Country Club.

Watson said he still loves to compete, but the 68-year-old’s interests have begun to fall elsewhere.

“I’ve always loved to play here, but my love right now is trying to learn how to be a horseman and learn to be a cutting horse showman,” Watson said. “That’s what my love is right now.

“It’s a new game for Tom Watson. Real new game.”

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The new hobby was brought about by watching his wife cut. After being an observer for a while, Watson could no longer sit on the sidelines.

“My wife’s been doing it for a number of years,” he said. “I’ve been watching her do it, and I said, ‘That’s enough. I can’t watch anymore. I’ve got to do it.’

“About a year-and-a-half ago, I made the commitment to learn how to be a horseman and start to show.”

A World Golf Hall of Famer and eight-time major champion, Watson was asked how he prepared for a tournament given his reduced schedule. He said that after his time away from the game, the Pro-Am rounds proved useful because he was able to work on his short game.

“The greens are really fast, and they take some real skill to putt,” Watson said, calling speed the most important aspect of putting. “I haven’t putted for a long time, and my touch isn’t real good. I’ve got to learn that touch real quick, learn that downhill putt, how hard to hit it.”

Another observation made by Watson with regards to the course echoed the sentiments of Bernhard Langer from Wednesday. Watson also noticed the removal of some trees, although he has always felt that the longest drivers had the advantage.

Despite noticing a drop in his yardage off the tee in the past five years, Watson thinks he can still contend.

“What inspires me still is that I still feel as if I can compete out here,” he said. “Even though I hit the ball shorter, I still feel as though I can still get it.”

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Watson will tee off with PGA TOUR Champions leader Jerry Kelly and Blaine McCallister on No. 1 at 12:10 p.m. on Friday.

The Toshiba Classic was last held in October of 2016. Defending champion Jay Haas is grouped with Langer and Billy Andrade. They will play the first hole at 12:20 p.m.

Among the competitors with Southern California ties, both Mark O’Meara and Paul Goydos graduated from Long Beach State University.

O’Meara is in a group led by David Toms, who comes into the tournament ranked third on the Charles Schwab Cup money list after four events.

With Fred Couples (back) withdrawing from the tournament on Wednesday, Newport Beach resident Tom Jenkins will be the hometown golfer to watch. He tees off at 10:50 a.m.

Other notables competing include Vijay Singh, Rocco Mediate and John Daly.

andrew.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner

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