Stadler is in Kettering, Ohio, this week to play the U.S. Senior Open. And hes now doing what his competitors feared ' he is starting to have high finishes after half a year of so-so starts. Thats what happens when you are 53 and aches and pains make the body unwilling to do that demands that golf puts on it.
That was only at the beginning of June. Following a month-long period of rest, Stadler feels well again. He finished first in money won on the elder circuit last year, and now that hes healthy, hes showing why.
He finished tied for third in the Commerce Bank Championship earlier this month and was fourth last week in the British. But it has been a long haul out the hole he dug for himself earlier in the year. He played five events on the regular tour and made the cut four times. However, his play on the Champions Tour didnt begin to measure up to last year, when he made the winners circle five times.
This year's been a struggle, said Stadler. I didn't get out real well. Played one good event where I should have won, actually, in L.A., at Valencia, I hit a couple shots on the last two holes coming in that cost me.
He played his regular-tour events up through the middle of April. Then came the odyssey with the back and elbow. And finally, he is back, trying to get back to the place he was last year.
I played OK in New York (at the Commerce Bank), he said. Almost won that. Had a good chance to win there. Couple weeks ago at Ford (Senior Players Championship), never got anything going at Ford Players.
And then came last week at the British Seniors, when Stadler played very well after the opening day when he carded a 73.
Maybe this is what it takes, he said last week. So maybe that's the wake up call my game needed.
Stadler is also calming down in his old age. He was a notorious firebrand in his earlier years. Now, at age 53, life ' and golf ' is just a pleasant stroll in the park.
I think I've been a lot calmer in the last probably 10, 12 years. Than, depending upon how far you want to go back, he said. Late '70s, early '80s, I was a freaking maniac. And I'll be the first to admit it. And it readily hurt my game. There's no doubt about it.
But I still get upset at a bad shot. But by the time I get to the next one, I'm way over it. And I'm thinking I've been that way for probably 8, 12 years any way it's changed. And a lot changed since I started putting better. A little more consistently better. And that helps.
And, theres one thing that really gets him upset. He even occasionally throws a tantrum.
I've always said I don't care if I hit a poor shot and make a bogey or make a double, but the thing that really (irks) me is three putts, Stadler said. And it always has. And I've very much limited those the last six, eight, 10 years.
So, and accordingly, I mean, my mind still is whacked, but it's not as bad.
FIVE FAVORITES THIS WEEK
The rookie showed last week in his first senior event that hes ready. Despite not being in contention since the 97 season, he finished only one stroke out of a playoff in the British Senior Open. Was that enough to take off years of rust? If so, watch out this week.
The Walrus appears to be all the way back. Hampered by back and elbow problems all June, he says he is healthy now and ready to go.
Winner of the Senior British last week, he got a new surge of adrenalin with the victory. Hadnt won since 2003 before that, but what has the sudden shot of confidence done for him?
Another rookie who will be playing his second Champions Tour event after finishing fifth in the British. The weather will be hot again, which means it is time for Roberts to sizzle.
The Champions Tours leading money winner should be able to rest now that hes back in official action. Quigley missed the British Open with a tricky hip, but he says it only bothers him when he sits for long periods ' it doesnt affect his golf swing. And ' all last week he played 36 to 54 holes each day at home. He has to go to the Senior U.S. Open to recuperate.