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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 24, 2010

Watson keeps Champions' lead


by JAYMES SONG
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Tom Watson

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KA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawai'i Tom Watson knows the simple solution to turning around an ugly putting performance.

"Make them," he said. "Just make them all and that's what I did on the back nine."

Watson birdied six holes on the back nine for a 6-under 66 and a two-stroke lead yesterday over senior newcomer Fred Couples after the second round of the Champions Tour's season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

The 60-year-old Watson, coming off a win with Jack Nicklaus in the Champions Skins at Ka'anapali, overcame a rocky start and finished with nine birdies and three bogeys for a 15-under 129 total.

Players had a second day of mostly calm and hazy conditions at Hualālai Golf Course, with the volcanic fog from Kīlauea covering the Kona Coast. The scores were low again on this resort course, which is among the easiest on tour. Watson called it a quarterhorse race.

"I hope my horse doesn't trip. I'm letting loose. I'm not holding back on the reins," he said.

Couples, who shot a bogey-free 66 for a 131 total, is making his first official Champions Tour start on a sponsor exemption to the winners-only event.

"It's not like you're going to be a nervous wreck, you just want to accomplish a goal and that's to win," Couples said. "It's been done before. I don't know how many guys have played their first champions event and won. But that's my goal."

Fifteen players have won in their Champions Tour debut. They include Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and three players last year, including Tom Lehman.

Lehman had a 67 to join Michael Allen (66) at 132. They were a stroke ahead of Mark O'Meara (65) and Phil Blackmar (67).

Watson was paired with Lehman and will be with Couples today.

"Freddie and Tom gives our tour some street cred," Watson said.

Couples said he's looking forward to playing with Watson again. They were last paired together at the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George's.

Watson, who was bogey free Friday, struggled with his putter early. He started with a three-putt from 18 on No. 1 where he missed a 3-footer for par. He then missed a gimme on the par-3 eighth and a 4-foot putt for par on the next hole, which dropped him a stroke off the lead.