Senior Golfers Set for First Major of Year


Following two wins in his inaugural year on the Senior Tour, Tom Kite is still looking to break out, as he has been highly touted to do on the 50-and-older circuit.
This week, he will have his first opportunity at a defense, when the Senior Tour travels to Scottsdale, Ariz., site of the first major championship of the year, The Countrywide Tradition.
Kite made the Countrywide his first victory on the Senior Tour last season, when he beat out another rookie Tom Watson on the sixth hole of a playoff at The Cochise Course of Desert Mountain.
After finishing at 8-under-par 280 with both Watson and Larry Nelson, Kite hit a beautiful 6-iron at the par-3 17th (sixth extra hole) to a foot for a gimme birdie and the apparent win.
With Nelson already out of the mix due to a bogey on the second extra hole, Watson tried in vain to keep the playoff alive, with a chip shot from off the green that hit the hole and flagstick, nearly went in, but finally veered off some three feet.
Kite had won.
He would then win again, two months later, at the SBC Senior Open.
But after that triumph, the little man from Texas has been rather quiet. He has recorded several top-5 finishes since that time, but he has yet to really kick it in like so many others have done on the Senior Tour.
In this 2001 season, Kite has six starts and four top-10s. Not bad play. But while others, such as Larry Nelson and Hale Irwin, already have each recorded two victories in this season, Kite has yet to put a lock on one.
Not that his two wins last year was a bad start, but for a player of Kites abilities, people have expected more.
For that matter, the same could be said for Watson. He has won but once.
While Watson is not scheduled to compete the week, however, Kite will be ready to go. Others in the field include four-time winner at this event Jack Nicklaus, Irwin, Nelson, Raymond Floyd and Gary Player.
Bruce Fleisher will also be teeing it up. He, too, has been in a bit of a slump, when comparing his recent record to that of his first couple years on the circuit. The man who played in hundreds of PGA Tour events without a win, but then collected four in his first season on the Senior Tour, has gone 18 starts without a victory.
The CountryWide Tradition has been played since 1989, and the Cochise course has served as its host venue every year. Other than Nicklaus, Gil Morgan is a multi-champion at this event. He won in back-to-back years during 1997-1998.
The Tradition is one of four major championships on the Senior Tour. The other three are the U.S. Senior Open, the PGA Seniors Championship and the Ford Senior Players Championship.