Kenny Perry (l) and Tom Watson are in the hunt at The Greenbrier Classic.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- After Tom Watson finished off a solid, if not spectacular round of 68 on Thursday at The Old White TPC, a reporter had asked
what the 63-year-old needed to do to make the cut.
"Well, how about winning the tournament?" Watson countered with that Huck Finn-grin of his.
Indeed. Watson, who shot 69 on Friday, not only made the cut but he's just five strokes out of the lead now with 36 holes remaining. The man who followed Sam Snead as pro emeritus at The Greenbrier is one of three Champions Tour players in the hunt, too.
Kenny Perry, who won the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship on Sunday, is only three strokes back after Friday's 67 moved him to 5 under. And Neal Lancaster, who turned 50 last September and has conditional status on the Champions Tour, is 4 under after a 71 on Friday.
Should Watson go on to win on Sunday, he would eclipse The Greenbrier's last pro emeritus, Sam Snead, as the oldest champ in PGA TOUR history. Snead was 52 years, 10 months, and 8 days old when he won his eighth Greater Greensboro Open title in 1965.
Even a top-10 finish would propel Watson past Snead, who was 63 years, 3 months and 4 days old when he tied for eighth at the 1975 B.C. Open. Watson will be 63 years, 10 months and 3 days old on Sunday but Snead still has him beat after making the cut at the 1979 Westchester Classic at the age of 67.
Watson's ball-striking was at its best on Friday as he hit all but two fairways and greens. Those 33 putts, though, including a trio of three-putts, left a lot to be desired, although the 24-footer he drained on the ninth hole, his fourth birdie of the day, sent Watson home happy.
"I did make one good one on the last hole," the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain said. "I changed my stroke and that gives me some confidence about maybe what I did with that stroke is maybe what I need to do because I was struggling on the greens today."
The 52-year-old Perry, who won 14 times on the PGA TOUR, was quite pleased with his performance over the first 36 holes. After all, he's hit all but eight fairways and nine greens in regulation while using just 57 putts.
"I’m going to need a lot of good rounds this weekend to catch them," Perry said. "But I played nicely, hit the ball good, lot of greens, lot of fairways, made some nice puts. I won on a Seth Raynor golf course last week, so I'm playing another one this week, so a lot of good memories, lot of good vibes, enjoy being out here."
Perry, who is playing in his third PGA TOUR event this year, is enjoying his busman's holiday, of sorts. He said he and his wife Sandy are like the grandparents" on the PGA TOUR this week.
"This is definitely not a permanent thing, it's just neat to show up every once in a while and just stay in touch and just say hi to everybody," Perry said.
Not that he's counting himself out.
"My game's still good enough to compete out here," Perry said. "I don't know if I would win like on a regular basis like I could in the past, but I still feel like I hit it far enough, I still putt well enough, so to me that gives me a lot of confidence and it makes it fun when I do come out here and compete because I still think I can compete with them.
"But it's an amazing game, they hit it so much further than I do now. I used to be one of the longer guys and now I'm just an average hitter out here. ... It's fun, we aggravate each other, we just have a great time, it's good being back."