Watson shakes off record 8-under 62 by Roberts

Updated: July 8, 2006, 10:19 PM ET
Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- The pain in his hip reminded Tom Watson why they call this tournament the U.S. Senior Open.

But a second straight 66 gave him a three-stroke lead over record-breaking Loren Roberts going into the final round of an event he would love to win for the thousands of fans who've been cheering him on all week.

Tom Watson
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelA second straight 66 gave Tom Watson a three-stroke lead heading into Sunday.
"I've got family and friends, acquaintances from all over the state here and it would be great, it would be wonderful to win," said Watson, who lives in Stilwell, Kan., about 3 hours northeast of here.

"I hope you can ask me the question tomorrow -- how does it feel to win in your home state?"

Watson is at 8 under through three rounds, while Roberts surged into contention with an 8-under-par 62 on the normally unforgiving Prairie Dunes layout, breaking the mark for the lowest 18-hole score in any USGA Open championship.

Seven golfers shared the record of 63, including Jack Nicklaus, Vijay Singh and Allen Doyle, this tournament's defending champion who shot a 67 Saturday and is two strokes behind Watson.

Watson, in the meantime, was planning to put heat on the sore hip he tweaked on No. 5.

"It's not that bad. Just a little muscle pull," the 56-year-old Kansas City native said with a grin. "We'll see what happens tomorrow. I could play with it today. I should be able to play with it tomorrow."

The 51-year-old Roberts recorded eight birdies and no bogeys on the narrow 6,646-yard layout, and had eight one-putts on the front nine.

The three-time winner on this year's Champion's Tour birdied five of the first eight holes. His 62 tied for the lowest 18-hole score in any of the 13 USGA national championships and was also a record for Prairie Dunes.

"Today was just a great day," Roberts said. "I got off to a really good start and I put it in the fairway on the first hole. And for me, that kind of got my round going."

Roberts began the day 3 over for the tournament, tied for 15th.

"I just seemed to get in a good rhythm and the putter was working today," he said. "I've been struggling with hitting the ball, and today it just kind of seemed to click on something. I hit a couple of poor shots out there, but I seemed to get some good breaks."

Even the tall rough, which one golfer compared to "wire brush," failed to faze him.

"I drove in the rough a couple of times, but had lies that I could do something with. So I did get some breaks today," he said.

Peter Jacobsen's 68 put him four strokes back, tied with Mark James.

Gentle winds and light morning rain that softened the normally tricky greens and tamed the unforgiving course for many of the over-50 golfers.

Andy Bean had a 6-under 64, Fred Funk and Jim Thorpe each had 65 and Ben Crenshaw, Scott Simpson and Doyle all shot 66, which was the lowest score anyone recorded on the first two days.

Bean was five strokes behind Watson, tied with Bob Gilder and Morris Hatalsky, who both managed only par-70.

Easier pin placements also contributed to the low scores. Plus, Watson said, the crafty seniors have learned the complexities and nuances of this unique links-type course.

"You have to play a variety of shots on this golf course," he said. "You have to cut the ball, you have to hook the ball, you have to hit the ball low, you have to hit the ball high.

"It's fun to play. It will eat your lunch when you're not playing well, too."

Doyle, whose closing-round 63 vaulted him to victory in last year's U.S. Senior Open, sank a long eagle putt on the par-5 17th to get to within a stroke of Watson. But then he two-putted for bogey on the par-4 No. 18.

"It isn't so much that you make the bogey. it's how you make it," said Doyle, who walked off the 18th visibly angry. "And it was just kind of stupid, really. But you've got to forget about it."

To escape afternoon thunderstorms forecast to move into the area Sunday afternoon, golfers were scheduled to begin teeing off at 9 a.m. ET, in groups of three on No. 1 and No. 10.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press