Whether he knows it or not, Tom Watson might be the player most responsible for the Constellation Senior Players Championship returning to the Fox Chapel Golf Club.
It was Watson, after playing a practice round last year, who raved about the design, look and character of Fox Chapel, calling it a "hidden gem" and even photographing some of the design techniques used by course architect Seth Raynor.
Watson, an eight-time major champion, sounded the trumpet and led the parade of Champions Tour players who tossed bouquets at the Fox Chapel layout. And the overwhelming approval of the players was one of the main reasons the tournament will return for the next two years.
"I always define great golf courses by how well you remember it, and I remember virtually every hole on the golf course," Watson said on the phone Thursday from his home in Bucyrus, Kan. "It's unique. From my perspective, every hole has a different character to it. The shot values that are required to play there are sensational."
Watson, 63, finished tied for 20th in last year's inaugural event at Fox Chapel, but it was his first tournament back from a neck injury that caused numbness in his hand. He will be in the field when the tournament, one of five majors on the Champions Tour, begins Thursday.
And Watson can't wait.
"It has a variety of long holes and short holes, from the great Biarritz green at No. 17 to the Redan hole on the front to the drivable par 4 right after that," Watson said of Fox Chapel. "To me, it has a wonderful variety of shot values."
No player in the field has won as many major tournaments as Watson.
He won eight on the PGA Tour, including five British Opens, and six on the Champions Tour. He is considered the greatest links player of all time because he has added three Senior British Open titles to go with the five claret jugs he won in 1974, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983.
Despite all those majors, he has never won the Senior Players Championship. His most recent victory on the Champions Tour came in the 2011 Senior PGA Championship.
Curiously, Fox Chapel will be the beginning of a seven-week stretch in which Watson will play six times, including four majors. He will play the Senior Players and the Senior British Open on the Champions Tour and the British Open and PGA Championship on the PGA tour.
"I got a long stretch and three of them are against the kids," said Watson, who will also play in the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "I wish I could say every time I tee it up I have a chance to win. At the Masters, playing on that golf course is too long for me. I'll still give it a try for another year or so.
"British Open courses, I have a little more chance. If I'm playing well, I have a reasonable chance to compete against the kids. That's important to me. I don't want to compete in a tournament just to compete."
Watson has appeared in only five events this season on the Champions Tour, and his best finish is a tie for fifth in the Toshiba Classic in mid-March. He also teamed with Andy North to finish tied for fourth in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in April.
But his schedule will pick up next week, and he will even take advantage of his trip to the British Open to visit Gleneagles in Scotland, site of the 2014 Ryder Cup matches. Watson is the captain of the U.S. team and wants to start getting the lay of the land at Gleneagles so he knows what to expect.
"I'm familiarizing myself with the regular tour players; I'm watching more golf on TV," Watson said. "When I was at the U.S. Open for the champions dinner, I stood on the 17th tee at Merion and met a lot of the players that went on through. I just watched them swing. I'm trying to get familiar with some of the players who will be on the team."mobilehome - golf
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.