Stadler Finds Something That Was Missing


You really didnt expect Craig Stadler to have this kind of an impact on the Champions Tour, did you? Uh ' that makes two of us. I didnt expect anything like this of the roly-poly bearded one.
I figured maybe Ben Crenshaw might do something like this, maybe Mark McCumber. But Stadler fooled me. I guess its that laconic way of his, that look that says anything but Im excited. But any way you look it, he is excited. Just look at what hes done.
Stadler won his third Champions Tour victory over the weekend. That is in addition to winning the B.C. Open this year on the regular tour. Oh ' did I mention that he has only been a Champions Tour member since his 50th birthday June 2nd?
Stadler has been plagued for several years now by a mediocre putter. Thats usually certain death on the Champions Tour, where you absolutely must roll the ball well to have much of a chance. The courses are a little shorter than the PGA Tour, meaning that everyone will reach them in about the same amount of shots. But once you get there, the fun starts. Its the guys who make the most putts who usually win.
Stadler, though, hadnt been much of a putter earlier in the year. He missed five cuts in his eight tries on the regular tour. Then he changed tours, won on the regular tour shortly after joining the Champions Tour, and hasnt stopped yet. And ' he putts it pretty well now.
Could I get used to this? he said with that deep belly laugh of his. Yeah. Im not as dumb as I look.
The win this past weekend was Stadlers second in succession. He won three weeks ago at the Greater Hickory Classic, before that a major - the Ford Senior Players Championship.
Why? I go back to something I heard Jack Nicklaus say in the late 1970s, said Stadler. Winning breeds winning. Ive always taken that to heart. Im in kind of a comfort zone now.
Stadler is fifth on the Champions Tour in driving distance at 286.5 yards, and hes second in greens hit. Plug in the putting average and you have the tours No. 2 scorer, right behind someone named Watson, T.
Whats happened? Well, the ol warhorse is getting his second wind. Stadler got a whiff of this rarified air, and he thinks he will stay around for another ' and another.
All of a sudden you are thrown into the limelight and everyone is expecting you to be on top of the heap again. In that regard it is kind of fun, said Stadler.
'You kind of look forward to that. I don't know what the difference is. You look at a lot of guys out here that just were not very good from 45 to 50, and all of a sudden they come out here and they find something, they start playing great again.
He himself was just average on the regular tour of late, underachieving by a good measure while he tried to find a reason to go golf tournaments 20 times a year. Now, he doesnt have to try. He says he actually looks forward to it.
I think it is just a little different mentality out here, Stadler said. You feel more like you belong, more like you can be competitive with all these guys, as opposed to going out and just kind of when you are 48 and 49, kind of hoping to make the cut I think just everything kind of falls into place.
Maybe its just seeing some old faces, or maybe its just remembering how it used to be in 1982, when he won four times.
You see all the guys you are playing against, and just kind of subconsciously, you are thinking ' I played these guys 20, 25, 30 years ago, and I was very competitive with them then. Theres no reason I shouldnt be now, Stadler said.
I think your confidence level and everything just goes up, just for the fact you dont have 80 guys that are 25 years old that hit it 340 freakin yards and make every putt playing against you every week.
Stadler is the only player on the Champions to have won three times, this in just half a year. Watson, Bruce Lietzke and Hale Irwin each have two. And, Stadler won on the regular tour a month after he was 50.
All in all, he has more than $1 million in his pocket that he didnt have before he turned 50. Yeah, the Champions Tour is a good life. But you dont have to tell Stadler. After all, hes living it.
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