DULUTH, GA. (AP) - Tom Watson is using the Champions Tour’s return to Atlanta as part of a three-week swing through Georgia designed to get his game back in winning form.
After missing the cut in the Masters last week, Watson will play in one of the featured groups Friday in the first round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC Sugarloaf. Watson will play with Bernhard Langer and David Frost in the Champions Tour’s first stop in the Atlanta area since 2000.
Watson, 63, said he hopes he can gain momentum by playing three straight weeks in Georgia, including the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf next week in Savannah.
“I like playing tournaments in a row like that because when you haven’t played in a while your game gets a little ratty along the edges,” Watson said. “After playing a second week and a third week your game gets a little honed. Hopefully you can get on a little roll and win. That’s what I’m still trying to do out here is win.”
Watson has won 14 Champions Tour events, most recently the 2011 Senior PGA Championship. He has won eight majors on the regular tour and five majors on the Champions Tour.
Stan Hall, executive director of the Gwinnett Champions Foundation, said his group had to hustle after the tournament was announced only six months ago. He said having Watson in the field gave the tournament a boost.
“One of the biggest hurdles out of the gate is to gain the credibility needed,” Hall said. “When a guy who has won eight major championships is in the field, that issue really disappears in a hurry.”
Most of the top names on the Champions Tour will compete for the inaugural Greater Gwinnett title, including rookie Rocco Mediate, who won the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla., on Feb. 10. He became the 16th player to win in his first Champions Tour event.
Mediate said he remembers some players complaining about the hilly TPC Sugarloaf course when it was the site for the PGA Tour’s BellSouth Classic from 1997-2008.
“Just the up and downness of it,” Mediate said. “A lot of guys don’t like the walk. It is a difficult walk, that’s true. That’s part of the game. If you don’t like to walk hilly courses, don’t play them, that’s what I always say.”
Golf carts are optional on the Champions Tour, but Mediate said he will be walking.
Watson won the 1981 Atlanta Classic at the Atlanta Country Club, beating hometown favorite Tommy Valentine.
“They wanted the other Tommy to win, the local guy,” Watson said.
Watson recently was selected as captain of the 2014 Ryder Cup team that will compete in Scotland.
Watson, who won five British Open championships, was the captain of the team which won the 1993 Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England.