But Irwin is one week shy of his 60th birthday, the age when golfers are supposed to be all washed up. But Irwin says the 60th birthday is just another number. Why should it be any different than your 50th, or 54th or 57th?
For me now, its the guys sitting there saying, You cant do this. Well, why not? You tell me why not, Ill tell you why. And thats what it is ' its not to prove a point to anyone, I think it more or less continues pushing me to be intrigued about what I CAN do.
Irwin joins the rest of the Champions Tour in Ligonier, Pa. at the Laurel Valley Golf Club for the tours first major championship of the year. As they say, you cant win them all unless you win the first. But Irwin seriously doubts that anyone could win all of them ' in one year.
I dont know if you could ever sweep them, I dont care WHERE you are playing. Thats pretty difficult, he said.
In fact, its very difficult to win all of them in your career ' the Senior PGA, the U.S. Senior Open, the Ford Senior Players, the JELD-WEN Tradition, and now the British Senior Open. Irwin has won 42 times in his career, easily a Champions Tour record, but there are still a couple of majors he hasnt nabbed.
What I wanted to do was win them all, Irwin emphasized. And I havent done that.
I still have (to win) the Tradition. Ive had my chances there. And unless I play at the Senior British, which is a relatively new one now ' which I havent played yet ' that would be one of those goals that I would certainly love to do.
Tom Kite says that Irwin is always the man to beat when youre talking the Champions Tour. Hes the class of our tour. But Irwin has a balky back now, and it has manifested its bad side already this season.
After a sizzling start when he won two of the first four tournaments he played in and finished second and third in the other two, he hit a rocky patch. Over the next four tournaments, with the back continually stiffening up, Irwin could finish no better than 14th. He took three weeks off, played only nine holes in the down time, and came back last week to finish tied for sixth at the Brunos Memorial Classic.
But Irwin himself isnt picking just one favorite this week. Hes picking several strong candidates.
I think Tom Watson, Craig Stadler - lets not fail to mention Dana Quigley, he said. Right now, the best player out here is Dana Quigley. In the long run, will Dana be the one to beat? I dont know, he certainly could be ' he has that capacity.
I think Tom (Kite) could do it. And Craig ' Craig just keeps on being the Walrus. And thats tremendous. Hes a formidable player. If Jay comes out ' and Peter Jacobsen, all those guys have tremendous potential.
I dont think you can count out five or six other guys. But ' if you had to pick one, Craig is the guy to look at, simply because he seems to be playing with more confidence than Ive seen him play in a long time.
And Irwin? Despite being nearly 60, there are a lot of prognosticators who are picking him.
Well, I look at it as a compliment, he said. I dont worry about what Im perceived of in that vein, because I know I can play. I know I can compete. And yet at the same time, I hopefully will show the respect that the other players deserve.
He says the time is coming, though, somewhere up ahead, when he wont be a favorite. He hasnt really thought about it yet. But he knows without question that its out there.
Lets face it ' there is a matter of time and how much longer I can play, and how much longer do I WANT to play, Irwin said. Theres two considerations ' theres a part of me that says, Yeah, Id love to play, I love the competition. Theres another part of me thats ready to give some other endeavors a little time now. Things that arent necessarily more physically challenging, but more mentally challenging.
But you never can put aside the desires you still have to play and compete.