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Watson Makes Bid For History At U.S. Open In Sacramento

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Tom Watson was the early leader Thursday, shooting a 4-under 66.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Golfing legend Tom Watson has opened the 2015 U.S. Senior Open with a 4-under-par 66. That's good for the first-round lead at the championship being held at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.

Watson is 65 years-old. No player older than 61 has won a major championship on the PGA or Champion's tours.  That player's name was...Tom Watson. In 2011, he won the Senior PGA Championship.

He has won 14 major championships during his career - six of them as a member of the Champions Tour.

Watson says he wasn't thinking about winning another major as he approached the 18th hole Thursday.

"...the last hole, I had a putt to shoot my age. I had a putt to shoot 65, and I was grinding on that thing, and it was going down there, and I started off on a pretty good line and then it started breaking kind of where I thought it was going to break. I said, 'Just hold this line, hold this line.' (It) didn't hold this line. But that would have been nice to shoot 65 in a U.S. Open."

Two shots back is home-town favorite, Kevin Sutherland.

"I wasn't expecting the ovation I got on the first hole," says Sutherland. "That caught me completely by surprise. Yeah, it's been fantastic. It's been amazing. The crowds, the way they've been rooting me on and stuff, I couldn't ask for anything more."

Ten shots back is Bob Niger from Eldorado Hills. His day ended with problems at 17 and 18 and a score of 6-over par. The day started on a high note, though.  He hit the first shot of this year's open.

"That was nice," Niger said. "Kind of an honor to lead off the tournament. I appreciated that opportunity. So that was great."

Both Niger and Watson played in the early pairings Thursday.  They will be in the afternoon pairings Friday. Temperatures are forecast to be about 100 degrees.

Watson says staying cool will be part of his game plan.

"The main thing is, where's the shade? Usually, you have your diagram on your book that says alright, here's the bunker, here's the green like this. Now you have a diagram, here's the shade over here, the shade over here, there's a shade behind the tee over there. That's what you're looking for right now."

Earlier this year, Watson became the oldest player to break par at the Masters Tournament. He plans to play his final British Open as a member of the PGA tour this year. He lost in a playoff in 2009 - at the age of 59.