But golf hasnt been quite as easy for Mark McNulty since that opening win in Tampa back in February. Entering the Allianz Championship (TGC, Fri. - Sun. at 5 & 9:00 p.m. ET), he has been somewhat mystified by the continual wrench he has thrown into a string of good scores.
McNulty won the Champions Tour qualifying tournament last fall, but a case of shingles forced him to miss the first three events of the year. When he finally got underway, the Zimbabwean native scorched the Tampa course with rounds of 67, 65 and 68.
Since then, however, the going hasnt been quite so easy.
The problem seems to be one bad round. For awhile it was the opening round. Lately, its been the closer.
Some of it, obviously, has to do with learning the courses and getting adjusted to the different grasses here in the States as opposed to grasses in Europe. But its just - Ive got to get my bearings, said McNulty. A little loss of form ' that happens.'
Last year, at age 49, he just missed becoming the oldest winner in European Tour history by tying for second, one shot out of first place at the Smurfit European Open. He picked right up this year with the win in Tampa. And I would have liked to have kept on playing right through to the next week, said McNulty. But we had a week off (due to the Champions Tour schedule), then we went to Mexico. I played OK, finished 12th. But you know, Ive had a bad round every tournament since then.
For awhile, it was ' of all things ' his putting. Long recognized as one of the deadliest putters in Europe, he had a slow start in the U.S. Hes slowly improved to where he now stands 19th on the Champions rankings.
The same sort of thing - some rounds are good and others arent, he said.
But youve got to look for consistency. Youve got to have three good rounds regardless of where you play ' you cant sit back and relax.
McNulty was tied for the lead last week at the FedEx Kinkos Classic going into the final round. But he shot a 75 on Sunday and dropped all the way down to a tie for 14th. It was something of a surprise to a man who won so quickly when the year began.
Tampa was a good course, a tough course, he said of his maiden victory. I played well there and was concentrating well.
Actually it was a combination of things. Ill say I was lucky to win quickly because its nice to win quickly.
And then, with the pressure off his shoulders, he has found it impossible so far to repeat.
Maybe it took too much pressure off - you know? said McNulty. I need to pressure myself up again.
Then again, maybe Im putting too much pressure on myself.
The competitiveness of the elders has been a little eye-opening, to say the least. He admits he was somewhat surprised to see the caliber of play on this tour.
Id have to be honest and say, Yes, McNulty said. To be totally honest ' looking at the scoring and listening to people ' yeah, youve got to play well to win tournaments.
But that competition is very positive, McNulty believes.
The competitive edge has come on strong on the Champions Tour the last few years ' if it hadnt before, he said. The depth has grown. Growing all the time. And it will grow, because weve had players in the past who didnt really play and quit when 43, 44, then started playing again when theyre 48, 49. Then you had Raymond (Floyd) and Stads (Craig Stadler) and Fuzzy (Zoeller) ' they all kept going. The bulk of the players really didnt play.
Now the games become so big that its forcing guys to play right until theyre 50 ' because of the money. And when youre got the competitive edge, it helps.
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