PLAYER of the year Michael ‘Tom’ Watson overcame several spirited challenges to win the Forest Classic – his second PGA West Region Order of Merit victory of the season.

Setting a new course record of 60 in the opening round at Forest of Dean Golf Club, it turned out to be far from a walk in the park for Watson.

However, the former Bournemouth Alliance captain, who started July by winning the Dudsbury Masters, eventually secured success by three strokes in Gloucestershire.

Watson landed back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes at Forest Hills GC after momentary scares during a two-under-par second round.

The 44-year-old’s four-shot over-night lead evaporated to just one when his playing partner Dan Carter (Upavon) rolled in a birdie at the par-three 14th.

Former European Tour player Stuart Little (Minchinhampton) posted the day’s best return of six-under-par, to finish on eight-under and pile pressure on Watson.

Another former tour man, David Dixon (Enmore Park), and Richard O’Hanlon (St Kew) also threatened until they shared fourth following late errors.

Watson, who won for the seventh time in a golden July, said: “I thought that if I broke par today I would be okay. I didn’t putt as well as I did on the first day when it looked as if I could make 59 until I overshot the final green when I needed to make my 12th birdie I had a shaky time today when I put my ball in the water at 11 and three-putted 12 to go back to level for the day.

“Dan was playing so nicely alongside me my lead soon became only one. I thought at the time it was going to be a battle between the two of us.

“But I played the last few holes well. I made four at the par-five 15th, followed by a 12-footer at the next.”

Watson also won the better-ball with 16-year-old Chepstow schoolboy Dan Maller, who was enlisted just before the first round.

Watson’s regular partner was ill so event controller Tom Sheffield invited the seven-handicapper to step in. They carded 93 points to win by four.

Watson extended his lead in the order of merit with only the Marstons West Region PGA Championship to play next month.

Lee Thompson (Dudsbury), whose four-under-par 137 brought a share of sixth worth £387, is seventh on 622.