Tom Watson fell out of the lead at the U.S. Senior Open on Saturday, but he is still very much in the thick of things at the major, heading into today’s final round.
Watson, 65, shot a 1-over 71 and finished the third round 1 shot back and tied for third among a very crowded leader board.
Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert shared the lead at 5-under 205 at Del Paso, where conditions cooled off Saturday after consecutive days above 100 degrees.
But the competition remained hot, with eight players 1 shot off the lead, including Watson, defending champion Colin Montgomerie and Woody Austin.
“It’s like a horse race,” Watson said. “Getting close to the wire.”
Langer shot a 2-under 68, and Maggert had a 70.
Watson, who was tied atop the leader board with Maggert and Peter Fowler after the second round, salvaged his 71 after making a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole that sent the gallery into a roar.
Montgomerie had a 70, and Kenny Perry, who is also tied for third, surged into contention with a 64.
The trio was joined by Austin (69), Fred Funk (68), Grant Waite (69), Scott Dunlap (68) and Jim Carter (70).
Fowler shot a 72 and was among six more players at 3 under.
Watson, an eight-time major champion on the PGA Tour, is trying to become the oldest winner of the event, the oldest to win a senior major and the oldest to win on the Champions Tour.
“I don’t know what that will require me to do, but I hope that I’m within a body length of the leader — if there’s a leader out there,” Watson said.
Perhaps Watson should have Langer in mind. Langer and Montgomerie have combined to win six of the previous seven senior major championships.
But Langer knows he’ll have to play well.
“The only way to separate yourself is by playing great golf,” he said.
Langer has been as good as anybody on the Champions Tour in this spot. The 57-year-old German won his second straight Senior Players Championship two weeks ago. And he has won five senior majors, which is tied for fifth most.
“You’ve got to try and avoid mistakes and make some putts and hit some incredible shots,” Langer said. “It’s the only way to really separate yourself.”
Besides Langer and Montgomerie, Maggert had the other victory during that stretch earlier this year at The Tradition, where Perry won in 2014.
“I’m kind of getting sick of seeing them, actually, especially on top of the leader board,” Maggert said.
“But it does seem to be a pretty constant theme out there.”