Former champion Tom Watson of the U.S. hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during a practice round in preparation for the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
Before Tom Watson hung up the phone during a Q&A with media about his commitment to play in the Greater Gwinnett Championship, the eight-time major champion winner wanted to ask his own question.
"Are the azaleas and dogwoods going to be in bloom?" Watson asked.
At 63 years old, Watson hasn't lost either his love of golf or his competitive drive. It was just four years ago that at the age of 59 he took Duluth resident Stewart Cink into a playoff in the British Open, nearly becoming the oldest major champion winner.
Now Watson plays many weeks on the Champions Tour, mixing in the occasional PGA event. With the Masters the week before and another Champions Tour stop following the inaugural week in Gwinnett, Watson is keeping a busy schedule through the early part of the golf season. He doesn't play often, but when he does, he prefers to string events together.
"I pretty much know my body," Watson said. "The real question is how will my body respond to that. The main thing is to keep my energy up. You never know what will happen ... you can go from the penthouse to the outhouse and back again."
His plan is to play in the Masters, Gwinnett, Savannah and Woodland, Texas, take a week off and then play in the Senior PGA Championship.
"That's a lot of concentrated golf for an old guy like me," Watson said, "but I have played a limited schedule the last 20-25 years of my career."
It's the concentration he's hoping will create better results.
Before the Masters, the last event Watson played in was in mid-April. He finished fifth at 10-under par in the Champions Tour event. The fifth-place finish was the best in two seasons for Watson, who had just two top-10s in six Champions events last year. He made a pair of cuts in three PGA events in 2012.
"I like to play in a row like that because when you don't play, your game gets a little ratty around the edges," Watson said. "I'm trying to win. That's what I am doing out here."
And with the Gwinnett date immediately after the Masters and right before another Georgia event the following week, it fits nicely into Watson's schedule, limiting travel wear on his body and keeping him in similar climate and playing conditions.
"We are fortunate the people in Gwinnett stepped up to the plate and sponsored a tournament for us," Watson said.
And though no one was brave enough to promise azaleas and dogwoods, they are signatures of the Masters and the weather only gets better headed toward summer.
"I truly am looking forward to coming down to play," Watson said.