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Purtzer Enjoying Career Year With Elders

Poor Tom Purtzer. Sometimes he wonders just what it takes to stay healthy.
Purtzer returns from a three-week break when he tees it up today at the Bayer Advantage Celebrity Pro-Am outside Kansas City (TGC Friday at 6 & 11 p.m. ET). For years on the PGA Tour, he battled a faulty back. Last year he struggled with a sore left hip. And this year, when the Champions Tour season was just one week old, he did it again ' he hurt himself to the extent that he was knocked out of the Royal Caribbean Classic.
I was doing some new exercises that a guy showed me a couple of weeks before, explained Purtzer. I just overdid it and pulled a muscle in my stomach.
But despite the bad luck that seems to follow Purtzer incessantly, he leads the Champions in scoring average and is eighth on the money list with $666,496. The man with one of the prettiest swings in golf may be playing his best golf ever ' yes, better than his days on the regular tour.
It definitely is (the best Ive played), said Purtzer, shrugging off talk about his injuries. Im probably playing better now than I ever have.
And, you know, I think its mostly confidence. I feel good about what Im doing. Ive made some little changes in my swing and theyve helped. Its really been a combination of things, but basically its the confidence factor ' that is the big thing.
His list of 1s on the Champions Tour is impressive indeed. He is first in driving distance ' his average of better than 296 per clout would put him near the top on the regular tour, and, of course, first in scoring. He is first in greens in regulation, first in average holes-per-birdie, and second in the all-around ranking. And, he has already won the Toshiba Senior Classic.
Purtzer had five victories on the regular tour, the first coming back in 1977 at the Los Angeles Open. He won twice in 1991, his best year when he was fourth on the money list. But the next year he began experiencing back difficulties, dropping to No. 96, and in 1993 dropped all the way to 136th while he was undergoing a great deal of difficulties with his back.
Yeah, my last 10 years on the regular tour, I was hurting about every day, said Purtzer. Once I got out here with a cart, it made a difference.
He may be about to retire early, though. A proposal to ban all carts on the Champions Tour is sceduled to take effect in 2005, and Purtzer has made it clear that he cannot walk and play golf.
Walking is what gets me the most, he said.
He cannot walk for three straight days, which is the length of most Champions Tour events. A disc in his back slides forward when he walks, pinching nerves in his legs.
So, he plays with the knowledge that this go-round through the Champions schedule could well be his last.
'I'm not sure whether my body will allow me to do what I want to next year (when the no-cart policy goes into effect),' he said. 'So there's a real sense of urgency this year.'
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