Irwin Is Champion of Champions

By Mercer BaggsDecember 18, 2002, 5:00 pm
This is the first of four statistical reviews. Following will be the PGA Tour (Thursday), LPGA Tour (Friday), and European Tour (Saturday).
Champions TourHale Irwin was the champion of champions on the Champions Tour in 2002. At the age of 57, he won four times (tied with Bob Gilder for most on tour) and became the first man in tour history to surpass the $3 million mark in a single season.
While no one could match Irwins Player of the Year campaign, Tom Watson and Tom Kite came the closest in trying to match him in terms of statistical dominance.
Kite led the tour in two categories: greens in regulation and all-around. Not surprisingly ' he finished runner-up in five events this season ' Watson was second in four different areas: scoring, greens in regulation, eagles per hole and all around.
But, of course, Irwin was slightly better than both. He was tops in scoring average, putting and birdies per round. Overall, he finished inside the top five in six of the 10 monitored stations.
Despite his advanced age, Irwin is showing no signs of slipping. His best year on tour came in 1997, when he won nine times. Five years later, his statistical numbers were much the same.
Scoring Average
1997 ' 68.92 (1)
2002 ' 68.93 (1)
1997 ' 1.734 (1)
2002 ' 1.717 (1)
Greens in Regulation
1997 ' 76.2% (1)
2002 ' 72.2% (9)
Driving Distance
1997 ' 266.1 (25)
2002 ' 269.6 (39)
Driving Accuracy
1997 ' 76.5% (7)
2002 ' 80.3% (5)
All Around
1997 ' 82 (2)
2002 ' 120 (T2)
The season wasnt all about Irwin, however.
In other numbers, Tom Jenkins became the first player since Joe Inman in 2000 to record a bogey-free event. Jenkins didnt drop a shot at this years Toshiba Senior Classic, yet finished tied for 10th.
Bruce Fleisher reeled off 27 straight rounds of par or better this year, the longest such streak this season on tour. He also held the record last year with 24.
R.W. Eaks made an impact in his first-ever season on the 50-and-over circuit. He led the tour in driving distance with an average of 295.1 yards-per-drive, shattering the old mark of 290.7 (set by John Jacobs in 1997).
Jacobs had the longest drive of the season, a 372-yard blast during the Farmers Charity Classic. His opening tee shot in the final round of that event a year ago traveled an amazing 403 yards.
Even more impressively, Lee Trevino hit 70 consecutive fairways over a span of three tournaments.
Finally, Dana Quigley once again played in every tournament the tour had to offer this season. He extended his record of consecutive events played to 187. Mike McCullough and Walter Hall also played in all 35 events in 2002.
  • More 2002 Year in Review Features
  • 2003 Champions Tour Schedule
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.