Elders Change Tours at Hope
Of course, theres Jay Haas, but then the 51-year-old is playing a full regular-tour schedule again this year. He never did make the transition to the Champions Tour last year, save for four tournaments. Ditto Peter Jacobsen, who went half-and-half last year.
But for the remainder of the Champions regulars, this is a little unusual. Oh, Tom Kite at 55 says he is going to try the PGA Tour again as a regular member. But all are playing hookey from the elder tour, which plays this week in Hawaii at the Turtle Bay Championship. There are only 128 pros in the field at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic as the amateurs fan out on the four courses. But six elders are 50 or over, meaning there are only 122 others in this regular-tour tournament.
Craig Stadler at 51 is teeing it up again, but that is primarily so he can play once again with son Kevin. Mark McCumber, 53, is entered based on a requirement that states anyone who won a Tournament Players Championship can play ' McCumber won in 1988. Lanny Wadkins, 51, won the Hope in 1985 and was invited to play. Jacobsen won in 1990. Stadler won here way back 25 years ago, in 1980. Kite won it in 93.
Jacobsen, Stadler and Kite all played in the Sony Open in Hawaii, and all three made the cut, incidentally. Stadler shocked quite a few when he finished way up, tying for ninth place and earning $124,000 on the strength of two closing 67s. Jacobsen, who dipped into the regular-tour cookie jar for $232,852 last year in 10 outings, came away with $32,640 by tying for 28th. And Kite was sailing along quite nicely until he shot 75 in the final round and finished tied for 72nd, earning $9,264.
How much of an improvement was this over similar payoffs on their own tour? Well, Stadler could expect to earn about $48,000 on the Champions Tour for placing T9 ' a difference of approximately $76 thou. Jacobsen would have earned somewhere around $12,000, which is a difference of around $20,000. And Kite would have earned only a little over $1,000 - approximately $8,000 less than he did at the Sony.
Expect the old-timers to do well at the Hope, too. They can easily reach the greens with short irons ' the Hope has some of the shortest courses on tour. And the fact that the holes must be pretty accessible to get all the amateurs around is another plus for the Champions members. In short, length doesnt mean much here. A Stadler or a Kite or a Jacobsen, for example, could finish high up again.
Stadler thought he was all finished with playing the regular tour, outside of the Masters. But that was before son Kevin earned his card for 2005. Now, Craig has had to rethink his decision, and he has had some eye-opening results.
I think that, to go out when you are 48 or 49 and still prove to these young guys that you can still play with them ' its a lot less pressure (on the Champions Tour), its a lot easier in that regard, he had said last year. Add two and two together and you get a lot more enjoyable time.
The lure of these father-son reunions has changed things, however.
And Kite? He decided he could still play with the juniors when he qualified for the U.S. Open last year over 36 heat-baked holes outside Houston. He went to Shinnecock and had an absolute ball, he said, while easily making the cut with the kids. And since he still was among the top 50 in career money on the regular tour, he decided to give it a try this season.
No question, you miss it, Kite said. I mean, if you've ever played in the big leagues, that's where you want to play. Hey, you may not be capable of it and I don't know that I'm capable of it - we're going to find out over the next couple of months whether I am - but this is the tour everybody wants to play on.
Jacobsens win in 2003 at Hartford means he is exempt for one more year on the PGA Tour. And he has been wavering ever since about going to the Champions. Last year he played 10 events on the regular tour, nine on the Champions.
It's really hard to turn your - to let go of a career that you fought to have for so many years, he said. I feel like I've got the best of both worlds.
The success of Haas has spurred on several of the over-50s to liberally sprinkle their schedule with regular-tour events. Larry Nelson said in the off-season he would like to try switching tours more often. Haas, Jacobsen and Kite plan on playing regularly with the kids.
Gosh, it looks like these elders just wont act their age. And that will be even more so if one of them jumps and gets another top 10 at the Hope this week.
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond
Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.
She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.
Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.
After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.
“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.
Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).
It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.
“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”
Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.
“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”
Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.
It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.
“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”
Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic
CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.
The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.
''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''
She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.
''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''
Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.
''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.
Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.
Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.
Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.
Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.
''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''
She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.
''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''
Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.
DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history
AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.
Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.
“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”
Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.
The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.
It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.
Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi
BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.
''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''
He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.
''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''
Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida
''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''
Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.
''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''
Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.
Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.
Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.