CONCORD, Mass. -- The Bank of America Championship is
spending more time on The Weather Channel than The Golf Channel.
A year after the Champions Tour event was flooded out before a
single shot was played, Tom Watson weathered two rain delays to
shoot a 7-under 65 in Friday's first round. Two-time runner up Tom
Purtzer was a stroke back at the Nashawtuc Country Club course.
"This is nothing," Watson said after two torrential, but
quickly moving, downpours delayed play for a combined 3 hours, 13
minutes. "The question is always asked why I play well in bad
weather. I guess it's because I grew up in it."
A native of Kansas City, Watson played through the winter and
learned to putt on frozen greens. He once made a hole-in-one on New
Year's Day, at about noon, on a 202-yard, downhill shot off
And, of course, he had some foul-weather success on the way to
winning eight majors -- five of them at the British Open -- and 39
times on the PGA Tour. In the 1979 Memorial, with the temperature
struggling to reach 40 degrees and winds whipping around 30 mph,
Watson shot a 69 in the second round to take control.
"Fifteen pars and three birdies. That was a good day," Watson
said. "I lapped the field that day."
For the 1980 British Open at Muirfield, which he won by four
strokes, "it was just blowing like crazy."
"That was another round I was proud of," said Watson, who has
sole possession of the lead after the first round of a Champions
Tour event for the first time in four years.
John Jacobs was third at 5 under, and two-time winner Larry
Nelson was among seven tied for fourth and three strokes off the
On Friday, Watson was at the far end of the course, on the 13th
tee, when the horn blew the first time. A harrowing cart ride with
Lee Trevino at the wheel delivered them to safety before a downpour
was unleashed; just as quickly, it passed.
"It was easy," Watson said. "We had Trevino keeping everybody
The weather wasn't as bad as last year, when 12 inches of rain
in 10 days sent the nearby Sudbury River over its banks and left
fish frolicking on the flooded fairways. After toying with the idea
of shortening the course or the event, the entire tournament was
It was the first time an entire Champions Tour event had been
canceled since the Sept. 11 attacks.
With an otherwise uninterrupted history that dates to 1981, the
tournament is the longest-running 54-hole event on the over-50
tour. But Watson had never played Nashawtuc before this week, and
said he actually came out of the first shower feeling more
comfortable with his swing.
Although he sliced a 3-wood to the right off the tee at the
par-4 14th, Watson cut through the trees and made a 13-foot birdie
putt that moved him to 6 under. He was still at minus-6 on the 18th
tee when the second delay came; Purtzer was tied for the lead in
Purtzer had played in Concord three times previously, following
a fourth-place finish in 2003 with back-to-back second places.
"Love the golf course. Love the tournament. I'm moving back
here," he said after a bogey-free round. "I've let two slip away
here. I've definitely played well at this course. One of these
years, it will happen."
Purtzer had just teed off on No. 16 when the first horn sounded
at 2:58 p.m. An hour and 41 minutes later, he put a pitching wedge
to within 15 feet and made birdie.
Purtzer got to 6 under on No. 18, a 521-yard par 5, when he
reached the green in two, hitting a 3-iron to 38 feet and lagging
his first putt 6 inches from the hole.<
Hale Irwin went 185 holes in a row without a three-put
before doing so at No. 6 on Friday. Purtzer has the longest active
streak at 148. ... Leonard Thompson made double eagle on No. 18,
holing a 3-wood from 250 yards. ... Denny Helper, who earned a
sponsor's exemption by winning the reality show "The Big Break,"
shot 4-under 68.