Champions Drive into Major Stretch at Ford

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Men of the Champions Tour, here we go. Its Major time.
 
Over the next four weeks, those on the 50-and-over circuit will play three major championships, beginning with this weeks Ford Senior Players Championship.
 
They will take a break next week, but will return to play the Senior British Open the week thereafter. They will then fly back over the Atlantic Ocean to compete in the U.S. Senior Open.
 
Of course, the Champions now play five majors each season. The final major installment will come four weeks after the U.S. Senior Open, at the Jeld-Wen Tradition.
 
Craig Stadler heads to the TPC of Michigan as the defending champion ' and as the man to beat.
 
Stadler won last years title ' his first tour victory ' by shooting 65-66 on the weekend to defeat Tom Kite, Tom Watson and Jim Thorpe by three strokes.
 
He has since won four times, including twice this year. He captured the Ace Group Classic in February and the Bank of America Championship two weeks ago.
 
But if there is one man ' among many ' that Stadler will have his eye on in Dearborn, Mich., it will likely be Hale Irwin.
 
The 59-year-old champion of Champions won this years first major, the Senior PGA Championship. He also captured this title back in 1999, and was a runner-up in 96 and 98.
 
The big names are supposed to shine in the majors, and they are almost blinding in their recent major dominance on this tour.
 
In 2002, Fuzzy Zoeller was the only player who had a major title under his belt on the regular tour to win a senior major that season, at the Senior PGA. Jim Thorpe (Tradition), Don Pooley (U.S. Senior Open) and Stewart Ginn (Ford) were the other major winners. Noboru Sugai captured the Senior British Open that year (it wasnt declared an official major until 2003).
 
Last year, that trend continued when John Jacobs (Senior PGA) and Bruce Lietzke (U.S. Senior Open) won the first two majors. But then Stadler won the Ford, and then Tom Watson won both the Senior British and the Tradition.
 
And this year, Irwin picked up his fourth Senior PGA title.
 
Stadler will be looking to join Arnold Palmer (1984-85) as the only men to repeat as champion here. Dave Stockton (1992, 94) and Raymond Floyd (1996, 2000) are the only other multiple winners in the 21 years of this event.
 
Unlike the majors that are derived from the regular tour ' the Senior PGA, U.S. Senior Open and Senior British Open, the Ford and the Tradition do not have a cut.
 
There have only been two playoffs in tournament history. J.C. Snead defeated Jack Nicklaus head-to-head ' on the course Nicklaus designed, nonetheless ' in 1995, and Allen Doyle beat Doug Tewell in 2001.
 
Nicklaus does, however, own the 72-hole tournament scoring. He shot an incredible 27-under-par 261 in his 1990 victory. It's also the tour record for lowest 72-hole score. Jim Colbert (1995), Hubert Green (2002) and Tom Kite (2003) share the 18-hole course record at 63.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Ford Senior Players Championship