Theres Just No End to an Irwin Payday

By George WhiteMay 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
When is he gonna get tired of this?
 
Hale Irwin won another Champions Tour event this past week. Not unusual, you say? Well, it is when you consider Hales age ' less than two months shy of 58. And it is when you consider that is now leading the Champions Tour money list ' again. You can track him all over the course by the trail of dollar bills dropping out of his pockets.
 
Throughout his eight years, he has taken on all comers and proved he was better. When he started, he had to beat Raymond Floyd, Dave Stockton and John Bland. Irwin did it. Three or four years later, he had a new set of challengers ' Bruce Fleisher, Larry Nelson, Gil Morgan. Irwin was equal to the challenge. Now he has Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Bob Gilder. And its still Irwin.
 
Theyve come and Irwin faced off against all Jack Nicklaus, Jim Colbert, Allen Doyle, Bruce Lietzke, Doug Tewell, Jim Thorpe. He has proven he is better than all. No one knows when he is going to slow down. Not this year, when Jay Haas and Craig Stadler join the tour. Not next year, when Peter Jocobsen graduates. Will it be in 2005, when Greg Norman, Loren Roberts and Curtis Strange finally come of age? Or in 2006, when Irwin is in his 60s and facing off against newcomers Scott Hoch and Fred Funk?
 
Irwin was never a spectacular player on the regular PGA Tour. Oh, he won 20 times, including three U.S. Opens. He was always good but never brilliant. He served notice something was up when won the Open and Buick Classic at age 45, then the Heritage Classic just shy of his 49th birthday.
 
Of course, when he turned 50, he was unstoppable. Then he won nine times in 97, seven times in 98. Last year he won four times. And this year ' when 11 men have won the first 11 tournaments ' he has a victory, two seconds and two thirds in nine outings.
 
Look at some of the legends ' Jack Nicklaus in his eighth season failed to win a tournament and finished 58th on the money list. Arnold Palmer won once and finished 17th. Lee Trevino? One win, 18th in money. Tom Watson is in only his fourth season, but even at that young age, he won once last season and finished eighth on the money list.
 
Maybe you noticed that, except for Trevino, those guys didnt play very often. But Irwin doesnt, either. He has a thriving course-design business that keeps him occupied for much of the season. He plays now more than he used to ' he got it around 27 times last year ' but that still is barely more than half the year.
 
This Champions Tour thing, though, has made him quite wealthy. Hes made $17.7 million in his eight years, after earning just six million in his 27 years on the regular tour. Undoubtedly, inflation explains most of that. But dont forget he now has won 37 Champions Tour events, as opposed to 20 on the regular tour.
 
'I don't have it any more,' Irwin said, trying to keep a straight face while discussing the millions he's won playing golf. 'It's that house in Arizona (which he moved into last year after many years of living in St. Louis.) You saw 'Money Pit?' I've got one.'
 
Hes one of the fittest 57-year-olds around, though. I beat myself silly, he says, and it seems unnecessary to add that he hears the chink-chink of coins until he goes silly, too.
 
Thirty years ago, I went out and pounded balls and I didn't have a clue what I was doing,' said Irwin, remembering back to when he first turned professional. I'd stand out on that practice tee before and after tournaments and hit balls and balls and balls.
 
Now I do it with some idea of improving an area - and not several areas at once, but an area, try to have a swing thought that's going to improve an area and that will have that domino effect.
 
I have more experience now. I know what I can do. I know what's best for me. I'm wrong sometimes, but for the most part I tend to make better decisions regarding my practice schedule, my playing schedule. And then my on-course management I think is just as good as it has ever been.
 
Someday he will slow down. But not for awhile yet. Hale Irwin is having too much fun. And making too much money.
 
'I have not lost my intensity for the game,' he said. 'I still love to play competively. I don't play socially. I enjoy the heat of the battle. I lose far more than I win, but I love the ability - or the opportunity - and I appreciate having the ability to try.'
 
Related Links:
  • Hale Irwin Bio
  • Champions Tour Money Leaders
  • Getty Images

    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

    Getty Images

    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

    Getty Images

    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

    Getty Images

    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.