Fred Couples won the Masters that year, Tom Kite took the U.S. Open and Nick Price captured the PGA Championship.
All three are in contention at the 71st Senior PGA Championship.
Couples tees off Saturday as the leader at the halfway point at 7-under-par after carding a 68 on the par-72, 7,399-yard layout Friday afternoon. He’s one shot ahead of Kite (69) and two ahead of Tom Lehman (71).
Price (71) is four shots back, behind Jay Don Blake (69) and Lu Chien-soon (70) in fourth place.
“It’s a great leaderboard, that’s for sure,” Couples continued. “A lot of great players.”
Couples, who has won three of the six tournaments he’s entered so far, shot a 4-under 68 Friday for the day’s best round despite teeing off in the afternoon, when the winds picked up after a moment of calm.
He’s attempting to become the 12th golfer to win the Senior PGA on his first try, something Kite nearly did himself in 2000, when he finished second to Doug Tewell. Kite is aiming for one of golf’s true rarities, capturing a tournament title in his 60s.
“I have that as a goal,” Kite said after his second straight 69. “I work hard on my conditioning and my game to try to make it last and I’m very pleased with where my game is right now. I think that at some point I will win in my 60s. And I look forward to that day. I hope it’s this weekend.”
One big name missing from this reunion is Tom Watson, who, at 5 over, was two strokes ahead of the cut.
“The course got me today,” Watson said. “I didn’t hit my irons very well today and didn’t putt worth a darn.”
Except for a 90-minute reprieve that helped some of those who teed off in the morning, the gusty conditions made an already difficult course all the more challenging.
“When you’re playing in 20 and 30 mph winds and you’re trying to judge shots, it’s not too easy to do,” Couples said. “It’s a very good layout. It’s hard and it’s long. If it’s long for me, I’m sure it’s long for a lot of other people. …
“As far as hard, it’s a 10.”
The midday break in the winds provided the first calm conditions all week and caught many by surprise.
“We kept expecting it to pick up because the forecast all today was at noon it was going to start blowing and at 1 it was going to really start howling and at 3 o’clock it was going to be knocking your hat off,” Kite said. “And right now it’s about a 3 mph wind out there.”
The winds returned in the afternoon and early evening, much to the delight of Blake, who capitalized on the calmer conditions with a 5 under on the front nine.
“I’m not cheering bad for anybody,” said Blake, who endured 35 mph gusts Thursday afternoon, “but I’m hoping the winds blow this afternoon because we had it pretty bad yesterday.”
He definitely got his wish with winds gusts reaching nearly 30 mph.
“As soon as I walked on the range, it was blowing,” Couples said. “Nothing like they were predicting, but it blew pretty much from the first hole on.”
Kite is trying to become the oldest golfer to win the Senior PGA Championship since the Champions Tour began in 1980. Hale Irwin was three days shy of his 59th birthday when he won it in 2004.
And besting this field would rank right up there with the bigger wins of his career.
“I think the Champions Tour is a great place to be right now,” Kite said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm right now because you’ve got a lot of name players that have popped out that are Hall of Famers or would-be Hall of Famers that are all of a sudden playing on the Champions Tour. …
“You have to do something with your game, you can’t just continue to do the same thing. You’re going to have to perform, because you know all those guys are really bringing it to the table.”