The old boys head out to the LA area this week to compete at the SBC Classic at Valencia. Stadler, of course, is front and center. The juniors will be playing the Honda Classic and its a reasonable bet that he could be there with a sponsors exemption if he so desired. But he doesnt. Even if he could play the PGA Tour, he is perfectly happy playing with the seniors.
Stadler, you know, has played the three regular-tour events this year. Done quite well, too. While waiting around for the Champions Tours MasterCard Championship in Hawaii, he came over early and entered the SONY Open. And he beat a whole lot of the kids, finishing in a tie for ninth and taking $124,800 out of the cookie jar.
And the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was having its 45th anniversary and wanted to get as many past champions as possible. So Craig, who won in 1980, said sure. And then he wound up finishing in a tie for 14th, taking out another $82,250. A lot of people jerked their heads at that one.
OK now, say he gets another $400,000 or so and he could get his PGA Tour card for 2006 - he could play any old time he wants. Maybe he could ' would? ' emulate Jay Haas, or Peter Jacobsen, or Tom Kite and play a bunch of regular tour events this year. After all, he will be only 52 this year, and obviously he could be very competitive playing with the boys ' even after he missed the cut at Pebble Beach.
The speculation only got a chuckle from Stadler. No, he isnt even tempted to try the PGA Tour full-time. Yes, he is going to play the Champions, even if it costs him money ' the PGA Tour is much more lucrative. But thats all well and good. Case closed.
Stadler started the noise last year, when he made the cut in four of the six tour events. But he was at the top of the Champions money list, making $2.3 million, upping the cash won to $3.5 million in his year-and-a-half with the seniors. He figures hes going to make much more money than he can ever spend competing on the Champions, so why even think of rejoining the regular tour?
Stadler confesses that one reason he did so well in the regular-tour events is because there was absolutely no need to make a cut on the regular tour. I dont look at it as being my livelihood for the year, he explained. I look as it as going back to play some events (on the PGA Tour) that I enjoy playing, having some fun.
My home is the Champions Tour, Ive got that to drop back on the rest of the year. And, you know, its no big deal if I make the top 10 (in a regular-tour event), no big deal if I miss the cut. I just go to a few places that I enjoy playing. It HAS taken the pressure off, because I dont rely on making my living on the PGA Tour.
He has heard the talk, though. He could be a solid regular-tour player, most of them say. A reformation of Stadlers skills has occurred on the Champions Tour, and he now clubs the ball quite well, averaging 293 yards on his drives. And, most of all, he once again putts with remarkable consistency. Last year he was third on tour with 1.749 putts per hole.
And the scuttlebutt is intriguing, he concedes, but there is nothing to it. Son Kevin plays on the regular tour and he will play occasionally with the young pup. But he loves the old boys, he loves playing just three days without a cut, he loves making his million or two on the Champions and then going over to the PGA Tour, just when he feels like it.
After I left the Bob Hope, somebody said to me, Boy, youve got $220,000 now, another $400,000 and you will have your card for next year, said Stadler.
I looked at him and said, So?
But then, you stop and think, Itd be kind of nice to be exempt next year.
Lets see now, hes still playing the Masters. And hes playing at Hilton Head. Hmmm
Naw, he said, if I make $400 grand at Hilton Head, so be it.
Stadler isnt even going to be tempted. Hes Champions Tour all the way.
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