You probably dont know Craig Stadler just won the B.C. Open unless you wear thick horn-rimmed glasses and read your morning paper from stem to stern. The golf pages were full ' and rightly so ' of this anonymous chap named Ben Curtis winning the British Open. If there were any space left, ol Craig got a line or two. Of course, forget a mention of television. There was no way they could fit in all the breathless details of the British Open, and still have room for Stadler.
Ben Curtis is worthy, of course, of every bit of attention he gets. For him to win this event is the single biggest golf story in modern history. John Daly won the PGA Championship in 1991, a truly remarkable story, but that occurred in the United States. Curtis had to play overseas in England, on a course that was totally foreign, one year after grinding it out on the Hooters Tour. Forgive me, but his story was even more improbable than was Daly winning the PGA as a ninth alternate.
But what do we make of Stadler? Any other week in any other year, his 63 Sunday to win the B.C. is headline-grabbing stuff. No, make that page 1-stuff. Make that shout-it-from-the-rooftops stuff. If Stadler wins the B.C. and Thomas Bjorn wins the British, its Stadler by a landslide in the papers. If Stadler wins and Tiger Woods wins the British, its Stadler in a walk. The only guy who could knock Stadler off his perch was someone as anonymous as a Ben Curtis.
Two weeks ago, Stadler was winning the Ford Senior Players Championship in only his fourth start on the Champions Tour. He had played fitfully on the PGA Tour earlier this year, making the cut in only three of eight events he has entered. His best finish a tie for 42nd at Pebble Beach. But now - this.
A difference is his practice habits, perhaps? A difference is his diet, making a little less chow to bring down the size of that girth? A different grip, a different swing?
As bad as I played on the West Coast in the spring, Im playing that good now, said Stadler. And I have no idea what rhyme or reason there is to it.
Stadler is admittedly dumbstruck by this upturn of events. Its a little like hitting it big in the lottery. Hes smart enough not to question how it has happened ' only to acknowledge that suddenly hes putting up numbers that he hasnt seen since he won four times more than 20 years ago.
I learned how to score again, Stadler chuckled.
Growing old, then, seems to have been the secret.
I was just waiting to turn 50 to see what would happen, he told the Binghampton (N.Y.) Press and Sun-Bulletin. And all of a sudden ' hah ' I learned how to play again.
So there you go. Its the magical number. Get a good bottle of wine, turn 50 and you start putting well. Amazing thing.
Stadler was playing the B.C. primarily because one son, Kevin, got a sponsors exemption and the other son, Chris, caddied for the old man for the first time ever. Kevin missed the cut. Pops certainly didnt.
The perks of this win are nice, especially for a 50-year-old. For two years, he can play on either the Champions Tour or the PGA Tour, any event he pleases. He will play in the Mercedes Championships next year for regular-tour winners. And he might be forced to rethink his schedule ' right now it is almost totally Champions Tour, but he may have to enter another regular tour event or two if hes going to pull such stunts.
Golf, you see, is fun again. On the Champions Tour, hes playing with the old fellas that he hasnt seen in a few years. And the regular tour ' well, now hes won again. He made up a whopping eight strokes with his final-round 63.
Early in the year, he admitted to pretty much hating everything about golf.
It was a great week, he said. Neat doesnt even come close. It was awesome.
Golf was so miserable six months ago. Now, its just fun.
Stadler and Curtis crossed paths somewhere over the Atlantic Monday. Curtis was coming home to a heros welcome. Stadler was going the opposite direction headed for Scotland, where he is to play the British Senior Open at Turnberry this week. It was a nice sendoff for the British Isles, one would guess.
Stadler laughed the famous chortle that only he possesses. Its a nice sendoff going anywhere, he said.
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