Champions Tour Alive and Vibrant
Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Isao Aoki, Raymond Floyd the time has come to cut back on the Champions Tour schedule. Poised to take their place are Craig Stadler, Wayne Levi, D.A. Weibring and Morris Hatalsky. And ignoring their advancing age, still golfing to a standard reserved only for champions, are names like Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Fleisher, Allen Doyle, Larry Nelson and Gil Morgan.
It took 16 events this year before the Champions Tour had its first repeat winner. Names like Dana Quigley, Dave Barr, Vicente Fernandez and David Eger jumped out to wins early, followed by Tom Purtzer, Rodger Davis, Bob Gilder, Tom Jenkins, Jay Sigel, Jim Ahern and Doug Tewell. Not until Bruce Lietzke won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, then the U.S. Senior Open, did a player win two events this year.
Obviously, from a competitive standpoint, it's been really an unbelievable year, said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Twenty-five different winners in 30 weeks - just a very balanced amount of competition. Each week we seem to have a different mix of players in the hunt. It's a tremendously competitive tour again, which is terrific.
Once Lietzke won the sixth and seventh victories of his young Champions Tour career ' and his first and second this year - the floodgates broke and multiple winners became a little more common. Watson won two majors the second half of the season ' the British Senior Open (a major for the first time) and the JELD-WEN Tradition. Stadler made a grand entrance to the tour, winning his third time out, winning on the regular tour, then coming back two more times. Included in his three Champions Tour victories was a major ' the Ford Senior Players Championship.
There wasnt any adjustment at all for The Walrus.
You're basically starting Thursday or Friday morning, doing the same thing you've been doing for 30 years, said Stadler. Just different players in the field, but, you know, same guys I played with for 20 and over 30 years.
The only thing you might want to call an adjustment is the fact that I've never seen any golf courses, and obviously the first year you don't. But, we do that every week, and one or two practice rounds, you pretty much know what you've got.
Jim Thorpe got into the multiples act, winning the Long Island Classic and the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Thorpe studied a frequent playing partner, Tom Kite. Kite didnt win a tournament this year, yet played consistently enough to be No. 6 on the money list.
Tom has been a consistent player throughout his entire career, said Thorpe. At this particular point, his putting is a little suspect. But we have a good break - actually we have two breaks. One break that Tom Watson only plays 12 or 14 times, and another break is that Tom Kite is a little weak with the putter right now. We all go through it. I think these two players would absolutely dominate. Between Watson, Kite, and Irwin, you can probably add Morgan and Nelson in that crew.
I think these guys would dominate if things went their way. If Tom Kite was just a mediocre putter, if he putted 29, 30 putts per round, and Tom Watson isn't playing that much anymore, so we have another break there, he's going to play 14 events. He played 14 events and he leads the money list.
The Golf Channel has an increased role in the Champions Tour next year, becoming its exclusive cable home. Commissioner Finchem duly noted that during a speech at the Schwab Cup.
I must say that the Golf Channel people have done a terrific job, and especially on the promotion side, as they get ready to take over full production next year, said Finchem. But the promotion this year has been, we think, very, very good indeed. Thus we think we're well positioned to take off next year.
Irwin, injured much of the year with a problem back, won two times this season. At 58 years old, he increased his Champions Tour record to 38 victories, the ninth consecutive season that he has won at least twice. Some say he is playing even better than when he was on the regular tour. That is definitely possible, says Tom Jenkins.
All of a sudden, there wasn't a distraction about having to make a cut, explained Jenkins. And I think that's probably the biggest difference in players that had decent careers on the regular tour. You know, the cut was a major, a major thing on Fridays out there.
For some reason I never got over that. I was always concerned about the cuts. And now all of a sudden you don't have a cut, you go out and play, and mentally it made it so much easier and I think those three things alone, if you had any game at all and you work at it, you should be able to succeed out here.
Kite, for one, says the some facets of his game are definitely better than were on the regular tour, while some may not be so good.
I wish that I had the golf swing 25 years ago that I have right now, said Kite. I wish I had the conditioning 25 years ago that I have now. I think I would have won a lot more tournaments.
Obviously, I did a lot of great things with the short game back then that really carried me and saved me an awful lot from my wedges and my chipping, my bunker play and putting. That part of the game is not as sharp as what it used to be.
The Champions Tour should be just as impressive in 2004. Sam Torrance comes from Scotland to try to qualify. Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen both will turn 50, as will Keith Fergus, Mike Reid, Ron Streck and John Adams.
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.