Thorpe Goes for Third Straight Long Island Win

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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- It's easy to handicap this week's Champions Tour event: Jim Thorpe wins in a playoff.
 
The Commerce Bank Championship changed venues two years ago and Thorpe has won both events at the Red Course at Eisenhower Park with six rounds in the 60s, including a 60 in the second round in 2003.
 
A playoff?
 
The last four Champions Tour events and five of the last six have gone to sudden death, making the term 54-hole tournament kind of iffy.
 
``The competition out here is incredible and it gets tougher every week,'' Thorpe said as he prepared for his second defense of the Commerce Bank Classic which gets under way Friday. ``But this week is more exciting for me than any other this year, knowing I have won two in a row and I play well here.''
 
It's not as if Thorpe struggles around the other courses on the circuit. He has two wins this year - the FedEx Kinkos Classic and Blue Angels Classic in consecutive weeks in May. He is seventh on the money list with almost $800,000 and he leads the tour with 170 birdies.
 
But he feels comfortable on this 6,989-yard county public course that has been stretched this year to a par 71 rather than the par-70 layout Thorpe has owned the last two years.
 
``I like tough venues where the greens are firm and the fairways are firm. It separates the men from the boys,'' he said. ``It's the same for everybody so let's go play.''
 
But it's different this week for the 56-year-old Thorpe.
 
He's trying to become the second player to win this event three straight years as George Archer won it from 1990-92 when it was played at the Meadow Brook Club about 10 miles away. There have been five other threepeats in the 25 years of the Champions Tour and then there's the record: Hale Irwin won the Turtle Bay Championship at Hawaii in January for the fifth straight year.
 
``Yeah, but Hale owns that place over there,'' Thorpe said with a laugh.
 
The field Thorpe will have to beat to defend his title will have five players making their Champions Tour debuts, including former PGA Tour winners Mike Sullivan, Mike Reid, Dan Pohl and Brad Bryant.
 
``They just keep coming,'' Thorpe said of the newcomers to the over-50 set. ``But that's what keeps me going.''
 
He said his first win this year was proof of that.
 
``There was a six-way tie at Austin with four holes to go. I told my caddie, `Give me some new golf balls and let's go.' Stuff like that seems to fire me up.''
 
Peter Jacobsen, one of three players to share the lead here last year with an opening 64, withdrew because of bronchitis.
 
Dana Quigley will be in the field for the 263rd consecutive event to extend his own record. This will be the 277th consecutive tournament he has played when eligible, a streak that started the week before he won this tournament in 1997 and could be in jeopardy.
 
Quigley, who leads the tour with almost $1.3 million this year, has been bothered recently with an injury.
 
``I have some pain in my hip. I got it worked on today for the first time ever,'' he said Thursday. ``I've been lucky. I don't do anything but play golf. I don't practice. I don't work out. I don't do work at home. I'm a golf junkie.''
 
A trip to Europe could be what ends the streak. The Senior British Open is July 21-24 at Royal Aberdeen.
 
``If my hip isn't better I won't go to the Senior British Open and that'll be the end of the streak,'' Quigley said. ``The plane ride over there will kill me.''
 
First prize in the $1.5 million event is $225,000.
 
Related links:

  • Leaderboard - Commerce Bank Championship

  • Full Coverage - Commerce Bank Championship