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Tom Watson, one of the few real legends still playing senior golf, has opted to skip the U.S. Senior Open later this month at Inverness Club to play in a second-year PGA Tour event in southern West Virginia.
Watson told the Roanoke (Va.) Times newspaper that he will honor a commitment made to the owner of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where Watson has been designated the pro emeritus since 2005.
The PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic will be played July 28-31, the same dates the Senior Open will be contested at Inverness.
Kenny Perry, in his first full year on the Champions Tour but still competing in some PGA Tour events, has an endorsement deal with the Greenbrier and also will be playing in that tournament instead of the senior major in Toledo.
The 61-year-old Watson, an eight-time major champion on the regular tour, captured the Senior PGA Championship, a major, earlier this year. He was the runner-up to Bruce Lietzke in 2003 when the Senior Open was last held at Inverness.
“I’m saddened for the local golf fans and for all of those fans who will be coming to Toledo for the U.S. Senior Open,” said local tournament director Judd Silverman. “Watson is a legend, a hero to many fans, so his decision is very disappointing.”
Watson played in the Senior Open a year ago in Seattle instead of the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
He told the Roanoke paper: “Last year, I knew I disappointed Jim [Justice, the Greenbrier owner] not playing in the first tournament. … He called me up after I won the Senior PGA and said, ‘Tom, if you want to play in the Senior Open I don’t want to stop you. I know how important that is to you.’
“I told Jim, ‘No, I made a commitment to play in the Greenbrier Classic, and that’s where I’ll be.’”
That being the case, it will be Watson’s first start in a regular PGA Tour event since February, 2007. It will also mark the first time he has skipped the U.S. Senior Open since becoming eligible, age-wise, in 2000. He has posted six top-5 finishes in the event in 11 appearances.
— Dave Hackenberg