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2000 In Review

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Majors, milestones and memories. Dial M for the 2000 Senior PGA Tour.
 
Okay, so the 2000 Senior season lacked the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but there were plenty of highlights, and no one provided more than Larry Nelson.
 
In his third full season on the 50-and-over circuit, Nelson more than doubled his career victory count. The now-53-year-old won six times this year, good enough for Player of the Year honors and the 2000 money title.
 
Nelson credited a dietary change to his late-season surge, which included four wins and a runner-up finish in a five-start stretch, beginning in late August.
 
In addition to his six victories, Nelson recorded seven second-place finishes and 23 top-10s in 30 starts. He also earned over $2.7 million.
 
Nelson was one of only two players in 2000 to win in successive weeks. The other? Jim Thorpe. Playing in his sophomore season, Thorpe recorded his first career Senior victory at The Transamerica. The following week, he won the Gold Rush Classic.
 
Coincidentally, Thorpe's back-to-back wins came right after Nelson had accomplished the same feat. Nelson won the Bank One Senior Championship and the Vantage Championship in the two weeks prior to Thorpe's Transamerica triumph.
 
Thorpe's first victory broke a 68-start winless drought on the Senior Tour, the same number snapped by Ed Dougherty in 2000.
 
Two-and-a-half years and 68 starts without a win, Dougherty finally stepped into the winner's circle at the Coldwell Banker Burnet Classic. Dougherty joined Thorpe as one of five first-time winners in 2000. The other three were Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins and Doug Tewell - all of whom were Senior rookies.
 
Speaking of Kite, Tewell and Wadkins, they, along with Tom Watson, were supposed to provide an influx of excitement on the Senior circuit in 2000. Wadkins' year was a bust. After winning in his first start at the ACE Group Classic, the 21-time PGA Tour winner failed to post another Senior victory over his final 22 starts. In fact, he recorded but one other top-10 the remainder of the season.
 
Likewise, Watson only won once this year (IR Tour Championship); though he did collect four runner-up finishes in 13 starts.
 
On the other hand, Tewell and Kite were multiple winners in 2000. Both won a major championship - Tewell at the PGA Seniors' Championship and Kite at the Countrywide Tradition. Kite added the SBC Senior Open to his victory total, while Tewell picked up the hardware at the SBC Championship and the Novell Utah Showdown. Tewell was also voted 2000 Rookie of the Year.
 
There were eight multiple winners in 2000. Aside from the aforementioned, there were Bruce Fleisher (4), Hale Irwin (4), Gil Morgan (3) and Hubert Green (2).
 
Green won both of his events in dramatic fashion, shooting 62 in the final round to win the Audi Senior Classic, and then firing 64 in the final round to capture the Kroger Senior Classic.
 
Irwin's four victories moved him to the top of the All-time Senior Tour wins list. With 29 career titles, Irwin is now tied with Lee Trevino, who won the 2000 Cadillac NFL Golf Classic.
 
Winning at the age of 60, Trevino proved age is just a state of mind. Others proved it could be a number on your scorecard. Gary Player, Miller Barber and Arnold Palmer all shot their age or lower in 2000.
 
Player and Barber did it on the same day. Player shot his age, 64, in the first round of the BellSouth Senior Classic, while the 69-year-old Barber carded a 68. Barber also recorded a quartet of 69s on the season.
 
Palmer shot 69 in the second round of the FleetBoston Classic, two weeks shy of his 71st birthday. He also posted a 70 in the final round of the Utah Showdown.
 
Aside from individual rounds, Palmer also reached a collective milestone in 2000, playing in his 1000th career PGA/Senior Tour event; he did so at the Instinet Classic in July.
 
The King wasn't the only man to reach 1000 in 2000, Dave Eichelberger played in his millennial event at the BellSouth Senior Classic, less than two months before Palmer.
 
Eichelberger and Palmer joined Barber and Gay Brewer as the only men to reach the 1000-event plateau.
 
Dana Quigley has a long way to go before he reaches that magical number, though he's on record pace to get there. For the third straight season, Quigley played in every official event. Quigley now enters the 2001 campaign having played in 129 consecutive events in which he's been eligible for, and 113 overall.
 
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment by any and all over the age of 50 was what they did at the major tournaments - on the PGA Tour.
 
Beginning at the Masters, Jack Nicklaus and Tommy Aaron made the cut. Nicklaus playing the weekend at Augusta National is really no surprise, but Aaron? The guy's 63 years old! Aaron, who won the Masters in 1973, finished higher than fellow Masters champions Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O'Meara, Craig Stadler, Sandy Lyle, Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller. He also bested Lee Janzen and Lee Westwood, to boot.
 
Four Seniors made the cut at the U.S. Open. Irwin and Watson tied for 27th. Kite tied for 32nd. Eichelberger tied for 57th.
 
Watson also made the cut at the British Open. The five-time Open champion tied for 55th. Christy O'Connor (T60) and Kite (T70) also played all four rounds at St. Andrews.
 
At the PGA Championship, only two Seniors qualified for weekend play. However, both made the most of their extended stay. Watson tied for ninth, while Kite tied for 19th. The two men played in the same group together on Sunday - three hours later than Colin Montgomerie! Watson shot 65-68 on the weekend. Kite shot all four rounds at par of better.
 
Next year's rookie crop on the Senior Tour includes, among others, Bruce Lietzke, Mark McCumber and Q-School medallist Bob Gilder. Gilder will be eligible for the season's first full-field event. However, Lietzke and McCumber will have to wait until July and September, respectively, before they officially turn 50.

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