OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A weary Don Pooley stood in the dark outside the clubhouse, signing autographs, posing for pictures and savoring every minute.
He beat Tom Watson on the fifth playoff hole hours earlier Sunday and became the first qualifier to win the U.S. Senior Open.
"I only got about four hours sleep last night, and this is a long day on four hours sleep," he said.
Much longer than few could have imagined.
After dueling with Watson for 18 holes at Caves Valley Golf Course, Pooley finally defeated the five-time British Open champion with a 10-foot birdie putt.
He had never won before on the senior tour and his last victory on the PGA Tour came in 1987.
Pooley led by five shots with 10 holes to play, but Watson used a stretch of six birdies in eight holes to draw even and force a playoff.
"Tom was making birdies left and right out there, and I was scraping and clawing and staying with him," Pooley said. "I certainly appreciated him, and I think he appreciated my effort. It was fun."
Pooley and Watson completed their round more than five hours after they teed off as the final twosome of the afternoon. Watson started the day three shots back.
"The guy shot a 63 yesterday," Watson said. "You've got to give him credit. He played solid golf and has a wonderful weapon in that short game of his."
After Watson's birdie-chip from the rough went wide of the hole, Pooley was poised to hit the potential winning putt before stepping back. He then returned to drain one of the most important shots of his career.
"I backed away, got a little more nervous, but I still hit the line and it went right in," Pooley said.
Pooley qualified for the tournament by winning a playoff, and won it the same way. The $450,000 first-place check was his biggest since his last win on the tour.
"It was a great thrill playing with Tom Watson, whom I have great admiration for," he said. "He usually beats me."
Pooley became the sixth golfer to win the tournament in his first try, and the 12th to make his first win as a senior a major championship.
"To win the U.S. Senior Open as my first senior event, it doesn't get any better than that," he said. "That is tops."
Watson was runner-up for the fourth time in 10 senior tournaments this year.
"I'm finishing second way too many times. ... I feel like Phil Mickelson to Tiger Woods," he said. "It's not a lot of fun to finish second."
Watson's 4-under-par 67 and Pooley's 70 left both at 10-under 274.
After a three-hole playoff in which the cumulative scores were totaled, the players returned to the 18th hole for a sudden-death format.
Pooley ended a run of 17 straight pars with a 12-foot birdie putt, but Watson also made a birdie from the same distance. Pooley then made the winning shot on the 77th hole of the four-day tournament.
"I did what I had to do to catch him," Watson said. "In the end, it wasn't good enough."
Tom Kite, who started five shots back, shot a 68 to finish third at 277. Kite was in contention until he missed a 6-foot par putt on No. 15 to fall four shots off the pace.
"I putted better than I have for a long time, so that's encouraging for the rest of the year," Kite said. "But it is very disconcerting to play as inconsistently as I did."
Ed Dougherty was fourth at 278 after a 70 in which he parred the final eight holes.
"I hung in there pretty good today," he said. "Fourth place isn't bad."
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