This year began much the same way last year ended ' in Larry Nelson dominance. The 2000 Senior PGA Tour Player of the Year won his first two starts this season, and added three more over the remainder of the year to lead the tour with five victories.
Jim Colbert won but once this season, but by capturing the SBC Senior Classic ' the same week as his 60th birthday ' he became the eighth player in Senior Tour history to reach the 20 victory plateau.
Gil Morgan soon became No. 9, when he won both the ACE Group and Instinet Classics.
However, the king of senior golf is still Hale Irwin. The 56-year-old continued his winning ways, notching three in 2001, thus raising his career total to 32 ' three more than his nearest pursuer, Lee Trevino.
Mike McCullough recorded his first-ever win this season at the Mexico Senior Classic. The triumph came in his 178th start on tour, and 151st consecutive event for which he had been eligible.
Just four starts later he would become a multiple tour winner, claiming the Emerald Coast Classic.
Jose Maria Canizares made his maiden trip to the winners circle in 2001. He outlasted Morgan in a nine-hole playoff ' one off the tour record ' at the Toshiba Senior Classic.
Coincidentally, Bob Murphy won the same event in 1997 by defeating Jay Sigel with an 80-foot birdie putt on the ninth extra hole. And last year Gary McCord bettered three others on the fifth hole of sudden death.
In the rookie department, four players were able to garner victories ' three of who did so more than once. Bob Gilder, Sammy Rachels and Bruce Lietzke all won their first ' and second Senior Tour events as freshmen.
Rachels even managed to win once while using a traditional putter and once while using a long putter.
Meanwhile, Bobby Wadkins may have produced the biggest non-major triumph of the season. After a 26-year winless drought on both the PGA and Buy.Com Tours ' a span of more than 700 tournaments ' Wadkins finally finished the race first, winning the Lightpath Long Island Classic in his very first start.
Wadkins became the 10th player to win in his Senior debut, and the first since his brother, Lanny, did so last year.
He also became the youngest winner in tour history at 50 years, 9 days. Morgan was 50-years, 10-days old when he won his first event in 1996.
But, of course, the brightest moments were cast in the major championships ' all of which had a distinct flavor.
Doug Tewell won the seasons first big event at The Countrywide Tradition. There wasnt much drama, as the second-year player fired a final-round 62 to post a nine-shot victory.
The three other majors were much more tightly contested. Bruce Fleisher won the U.S. Senior Open by three shots, when one-by-one his opponents faltered coming home. The victory was Fleishers first in a major championship; and made all the more sweet after he blew a final-round lead to Irwin a year ago.
The Senior PGA Championship was one of nostalgia. Arnold Palmer shot his age (71) in the first round. Jack Nicklaus was in contention down the stretch Sunday. And Tom Watson, winner of eight majors on the regular tour, captured his first PGA of America title.
The years final major belonged to Allen Doyle. The former amateur standout made a 50-foot putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff, and then two-putted from a near-identical spot to deny Tewell his second major of the season at the Ford Senior Players Championship.
The victory was the professional highlight of Doyles remarkable 2001 campaign; one that saw him win twice and capture the money title with over $2.5 million.
But his biggest accomplishment ' and perhaps the most selfless act by anyone on any tour ' was in donating the $1 million annuity he won in the Charles Schwab Cup points race to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.