Ageless Irwin Still has Plenty of Fight Left

By George WhiteMay 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Senior PGA ChampionshipEDMOND, Okla. -- Ageless Hale Irwin ' he will be 61 next week, and yet he still is among the top players on the Champions Tour ' isnt merely getting older as the years go by. He says as the parade of players pass by, he is steadily improving. He wants to play with all of them, and with each, he picks up some little tidbit he can use in his own game.
I would to play against Loren (Roberts) or Jay (Haas) any day of the week, Irwin insists. I would love to play against Tiger any day of the week. It makes you a better player.
Hale Irwin is the all-time leader in Champions Tour titles.
I respect their games greatly ' I dont feel intimidated. Jack, Arnie ' anybody whos ever played the game. But am I afraid to play them? No. I welcome the opportunity, because it makes ME a better player.
This week Irwin is in Edmond, Okla., near Oklahoma City for his 42nd Champions Tour major ' the Senior PGA Championship. As a member of the regular tour from 1968 to 1994, he won three U.S. Opens. As a senior, hes won seven major championships. But hes won this tournament four times, the last time just two years ago, only a month shy of his 60th birthday.
And the secret may have been his enthusiastic willingness to play with the top players of the game. It never has mattered to him that he may look foolish trying to keep up. He thoroughly enjoys the difficult competition.
Thats what I did when I first started playing the tour, he said. I thought I knew how to play golf until I got out here. But woe is me, I didnt how to play golf.
But you learn by watching, and the occasional question. Certainly observation is the greatest tool going. I kept my eyes open, my ears open, and my mouth shut, trying to learn how to play.
His hair now is gray where it used to be brown. The hairline is slowly, ever so subtly, receding. But Irwin still revels in spying on the other players on the driving range. He observes intently when he is playing, trying to spot which each player does to make him successful.
I can go out and watch Loren putt and try to pick up something, he said. I can watch Jays rhythm and smoothness through the ball. There are things I can pick out of anybodys golf game that is very good, and try to emulate that.
I can go watch Tiger and say, Is there anything in his game that would make me a better player? Is there anything watching Phil Mickelson in a mirror that will make me a better player? I like to watch all the guys. Anybody that comes out, Im one of the first to go see how theyre hitting it, see what theyre doing.
Even at 60, even with all his experience, Irwin constantly is an observer. And when a newcomer has something that Irwin can use, Hale knows it immediately. For an old-timer who is still humble enough to learn, Irwin knows that there are lots of little things he can pick up by just observing. And by observing, he can tell who is going to be huge success before they ever hit a ball on the Champions Tour.
I predicted that Loren would be successful. Hes just got the right head for it. We play on greens that are very good for his stroke, he said.
He, Jay, and Im sure when Fred Funk comes out, a number of others coming right from the regular tour right on the Champions Tour ' theyre bringing with them all those assets which have made them good on the regular tour. And theyre not taking any time off, they coming right out and picking up right where they left off.
Irwin may not be of an age where he can hope to be the best player on the tour, but he isnt far from it. He led the tour with four victories and won just under $2 million. This year, though he hasnt broken through with a victory yet, he is fifth in money won. He is second on tour in greens in regulation, a better than average putter, and still long enough with the driver. The problem is, with a back that has been a problem for many years now, he finds himself often reduced to watching his fellow competitors hit instead of hitting himself.
But ' he has learned to get the utmost out of the time that he can practice.
I think I practice now much more with meaning, because I know I cant ' and probably shouldnt ' be out there for a very long period of time, says Irwin.
I used to stay out there (practicing) three times as long as I do now. But now I practice with a purpose. And I get a lot more done in the same amount of time.
Yes, somewhere, sometime, Hale will finally realize his time has come to watch fulltime from the sideline. It will probably be when his back tells him no more. But he says that time hasnt come yet ' not even a hint of it.
Somewhere along the line, he says, the years add up. I dont feel as though Ive reached that time yet. Jack or Arnold or Gary would probably tell you that the will to win is as strong as its ever been. But they would also have the realization that maybe their bodies are not what they used to be ' Jack certainly. That happens.
I dont think Im quite there. Hopefully I wont be for awhile.
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  • Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

    You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

    Race to the CME Globe

    Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

    Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

    The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

    Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

    Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

    So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

    Rolex Player of the Year

    The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

    Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

    Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

    Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

    It’s simple math.

    The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

    1st - 30 points

    2nd – 12 points

    3rd – 9 points

    4th – 7 points

    5th – 6 points

    6th – 5 points

    7rd – 4 points

    8th – 3 points

    9th – 2 points

    10th – 1 point

    Vare Trophy

    Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

    Money-winning title

    Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking

    World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

    Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

    At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

    Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

    By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

    Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

    ''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

    Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

    ''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

    Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

    ''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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    J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

    ''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

    ''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

    He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

    ''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

    Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

    ''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''