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Watson: Out of nowhere

Posted: March 17, 2008 12:43 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

How sweet it is: Denis Watson tastes the victory Sunday afternoon at the Valencia Country Club, where he won the 2008 AT&T Champions Classic golf tournament.

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On Saturday night, Denis Watson was passed the phone from his wife Susan.

On the other end was his 86-year-old mother-in-law Cleta Glenn who told him if he shot 68 Sunday in the final round of the AT&T Champions Classic at the par-72 Valencia Country Club he could place in the top 10.

"Well if I shoot 8-under I could win the golf tournament," Watson then told Susan.

Watson was almost right.

After a final round 7-under to force a playoff with Loren Roberts on a chilly Sunday, the 2007 Champions Tour Rookie of the Year defeated him with a birdie on the third hole to win the event. He takes home $240,000.

It was the third consecutive Champions Tour event that has been won in a playoff.

Watson finished the tournament at 7-under. He came into the day trailing Brad Bryant by seven strokes. He was also tied for 20th after Saturday's second round.

It was the largest comeback on the Champions Tour since 1994 when Jay Sigel won the GT West Classic in Ojai.

Watson, whose PGA TOUR career was sapped by terrible injuries, eagled the first hole of the day, added another one on No. 9 and birdied four other holes to cut the lead.

Bryant was even-par in the final round and battled to get into the playoff.

Watson, who was in the clubhouse more than an hour earlier was forced to watch as golfer after golfer took aim at his score.

"I was more nervous than when I was playing," Watson said. "This was like biting your fingernails."

Earlier, Roberts was two back of the leader on 18 and chipped a shot from 43 yards out in the rough that dove into the cup for an eagle, causing a raucous reaction from the gallery.

The amazing shot vaulted him into a tie for the lead.

"That's a thousand to one shot," Roberts said. "By in large I shouldn't have been in a playoff, but you know, once you get there you're disappointed you didn't get it done."

Roberts lost in a playoff that extended to four holes last year to Tom Purtzer.

Bryant, Roberts and Watson were even with pars after the first playoff on 18, then Bryant exited after the second hole, parring it to Roberts' and Watson's' birdies.

"This golf course definitely doesn't fit my game very well, so to finish second on this course is good for me," Bryant said. "I think it's the first time that we had two brothers finish second in the same week."

Bryant's younger brother Bart was in the lead Sunday at Bay Hill in the PGA TOUR's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but Tiger Woods made a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win.

It came down to putting Sunday in Valencia as the playoff moved to the par-4 No. 10, but first Watson hit a shot on his approach that placed the pressure on Roberts.

From 148 feet out, Watson drilled the ball to two feet from the cup.

Roberts' second shot left him with considerably more distance and he failed to make the ensuing putt.

Watson tapped it in for the victory.

Others had their opportunities.

Jay Haas was even with Bryant through 15, but double-bogeyed 16 to seal his fate.

Haas finished in fourth place at 6-under.

Watson said 16 won him the tournament. He hammered his tee shot, then putted in for a birdie.

After his round, he walked into the players' dining area to a round of applause.

"It was very, very pleasing and I was surprised when I walked into the clubhouse and they said I had the lead," Watson said. "Fortunately everybody struggled too. I had my struggles earlier in the week."

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