KOHLER, WISCONSIN (TICKER) -- Three rounds down, one to go for Tom Watson.
Watson overcame early struggles to shoot a 1-over-par 73 in Saturday's third round of the Senior U.S. Open at Whistling Straits and is at 7-under 209, three strokes better than Loren Roberts, who also carded a 73.
John Ross, Sam Torrance and Vincente Fernandez are tied for third at 3-under. Six players remain within striking distance at 2-under, including Denis Watson - who had the best round of the day at 5-under. Denis Watson won the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year.
"If I play a good round tomorrow, I should win the tournament," Tom Watson said. "Unless somebody really goes out and shoots a no-brainer, which can happen on this Tour. It happens all the time."
Entering the round with a three-stroke lead, Tom Watson tumbled into a tie atop the leaderboard after four bogies and just one birdie on the front nine. He regained the top spot at 6-under with a birdie on the par-4 10th and moved to 7-under with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16th.
"(It feels good to be the leader), especially after the front nine 3-over-par," Tom Watson said. "The back nine was a struggle, but I made a couple of birdies, saved a couple of pars from awkward places and I was grateful to be in the lead. I had some problems judging the downwind shots today. I had four of them I knocked right over the green, actually hitting shots the way I meant to hit them."
A winner of 48 events combined on the PGA and Champions Tours, Tom Watson carried a two-shot lead into the final round of the Senior Open a year ago, only to be overtaken by Allen Doyle - the first golfer to repeat as the tournament champion since Gary Player in 1987-88. He also had a share of the 36-hole lead in 2005.
This year, Tom Watson does not need to concern himself with Doyle, as the two-time defending champion failed to make the cut.
"You look at Allen Doyle, when he shot, he went from nine shots back, you know, so anything can happen," Tom Watson said. "I've been around this game for 36 years and nothing surprises me anymore. I just hope that I can go and keep the ball in play a little bit better tomorrow and judge the shots a little bit better. My judgment was not right today."
Roberts, who will play in the final group with Tom Watson for the second consecutive day on Sunday, was within one shot of the lead late but suffered through a double-bogey on the par-3 17th to drop three strokes back.
"Anything under par today would have been a good score, and that's what I was looking for," Roberts said. "I felt like I had it in my grasp and had an unfortunate bad break at 17. Other than that, I don't feel like I'm in too bad of shape. Tom didn't shoot under par either today, so, you know, the reason he's leading is because he played the last four holes 1-under."
The 52-year-old has one win on the Champions Tour this year, capturing the Boeing Championship at Sandestin last month. He is second on the tour's money list and has nine top-10 finishes in 13 events in 2007.
"I am just going to go out and hit the ball solidly (Sunday)," Roberts said. "I hit the ball the same today as I hit it the first two days. Obviously, the golf course was that much tougher. But if I can keep driving the ball in the fairway and make a few more putts, then obviously I've got to stay away from the double-bogey."
First prize is $470,000.