Rachels Looks for Hot Putter to Repeat


Sammy Rachels picked up his first Senior Tour win at last year's BellSouth Classic, needing just 21 putts during the final round.
Tied for the lead with defending champion Hale Irwin after seven holes, Rachels went 6-under par during the next seven holes en route to a Sunday 63 and a four-shot win over Irwin, his first on the Senior Tour.
Rachels' four-stroke victory in last year's event was somewhat unusual for this tournament. Since this tournament began in 1994, close finishes have been commonplace. Other than Rachels' four-stroke margin, no other player has won the tournament by more than two strokes, and four of the eight events have been decided by a single stroke.
Irwin was the only player in the field to post all three rounds in the 60s, finishing one shot ahead of Bruce Fleisher and Tom Kite. Thanks to his 2000 win and five other top-10 finishes, Irwin has won more money than any other player in tournament history - $649,992. Gil Morgan, a winner in 1997, is second with $538,600 and five top-10 efforts, while two- time winner Isao Aoki (1996, 1998) is third with $452,571.
In the previous eight events, the player who has led or had sole possession of the lead after 36 holes has won the event seven of eight times. The lone exception was in 1994, when Dave Stockton could not hold off Lee Trevino and finished tied for second.
Since it began in 1994, every winner has shot under par in all three rounds, and only three players have had a round in the 70s on their way to victory. Isao Aoki did it twice -- (final round 70 in 1996 and 1998), Bruce Fleisher opened with a 71 in 1999 and Sammy Rachels had a 70 in his second round last year.
The tournament winner has averaged 15.9 strokes under par for the 54-hole event.