2000 In Review

By Mercer BaggsDecember 15, 2000, 5:00 pm
Majors, milestones and memories. Dial M for the 2000 Senior PGA Tour.
Okay, so the 2000 Senior season lacked the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but there were plenty of highlights, and no one provided more than Larry Nelson.
In his third full season on the 50-and-over circuit, Nelson more than doubled his career victory count. The now-53-year-old won six times this year, good enough for Player of the Year honors and the 2000 money title.
Nelson credited a dietary change to his late-season surge, which included four wins and a runner-up finish in a five-start stretch, beginning in late August.
In addition to his six victories, Nelson recorded seven second-place finishes and 23 top-10s in 30 starts. He also earned over $2.7 million.
Nelson was one of only two players in 2000 to win in successive weeks. The other? Jim Thorpe. Playing in his sophomore season, Thorpe recorded his first career Senior victory at The Transamerica. The following week, he won the Gold Rush Classic.
Coincidentally, Thorpe's back-to-back wins came right after Nelson had accomplished the same feat. Nelson won the Bank One Senior Championship and the Vantage Championship in the two weeks prior to Thorpe's Transamerica triumph.
Thorpe's first victory broke a 68-start winless drought on the Senior Tour, the same number snapped by Ed Dougherty in 2000.
Two-and-a-half years and 68 starts without a win, Dougherty finally stepped into the winner's circle at the Coldwell Banker Burnet Classic. Dougherty joined Thorpe as one of five first-time winners in 2000. The other three were Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins and Doug Tewell - all of whom were Senior rookies.
Speaking of Kite, Tewell and Wadkins, they, along with Tom Watson, were supposed to provide an influx of excitement on the Senior circuit in 2000. Wadkins' year was a bust. After winning in his first start at the ACE Group Classic, the 21-time PGA Tour winner failed to post another Senior victory over his final 22 starts. In fact, he recorded but one other top-10 the remainder of the season.
Likewise, Watson only won once this year (IR Tour Championship); though he did collect four runner-up finishes in 13 starts.
On the other hand, Tewell and Kite were multiple winners in 2000. Both won a major championship - Tewell at the PGA Seniors' Championship and Kite at the Countrywide Tradition. Kite added the SBC Senior Open to his victory total, while Tewell picked up the hardware at the SBC Championship and the Novell Utah Showdown. Tewell was also voted 2000 Rookie of the Year.
There were eight multiple winners in 2000. Aside from the aforementioned, there were Bruce Fleisher (4), Hale Irwin (4), Gil Morgan (3) and Hubert Green (2).
Green won both of his events in dramatic fashion, shooting 62 in the final round to win the Audi Senior Classic, and then firing 64 in the final round to capture the Kroger Senior Classic.
Irwin's four victories moved him to the top of the All-time Senior Tour wins list. With 29 career titles, Irwin is now tied with Lee Trevino, who won the 2000 Cadillac NFL Golf Classic.
Winning at the age of 60, Trevino proved age is just a state of mind. Others proved it could be a number on your scorecard. Gary Player, Miller Barber and Arnold Palmer all shot their age or lower in 2000.
Player and Barber did it on the same day. Player shot his age, 64, in the first round of the BellSouth Senior Classic, while the 69-year-old Barber carded a 68. Barber also recorded a quartet of 69s on the season.
Palmer shot 69 in the second round of the FleetBoston Classic, two weeks shy of his 71st birthday. He also posted a 70 in the final round of the Utah Showdown.
Aside from individual rounds, Palmer also reached a collective milestone in 2000, playing in his 1000th career PGA/Senior Tour event; he did so at the Instinet Classic in July.
The King wasn't the only man to reach 1000 in 2000, Dave Eichelberger played in his millennial event at the BellSouth Senior Classic, less than two months before Palmer.
Eichelberger and Palmer joined Barber and Gay Brewer as the only men to reach the 1000-event plateau.
Dana Quigley has a long way to go before he reaches that magical number, though he's on record pace to get there. For the third straight season, Quigley played in every official event. Quigley now enters the 2001 campaign having played in 129 consecutive events in which he's been eligible for, and 113 overall.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment by any and all over the age of 50 was what they did at the major tournaments - on the PGA Tour.
Beginning at the Masters, Jack Nicklaus and Tommy Aaron made the cut. Nicklaus playing the weekend at Augusta National is really no surprise, but Aaron? The guy's 63 years old! Aaron, who won the Masters in 1973, finished higher than fellow Masters champions Jose Maria Olazabal, Mark O'Meara, Craig Stadler, Sandy Lyle, Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller. He also bested Lee Janzen and Lee Westwood, to boot.
Four Seniors made the cut at the U.S. Open. Irwin and Watson tied for 27th. Kite tied for 32nd. Eichelberger tied for 57th.
Watson also made the cut at the British Open. The five-time Open champion tied for 55th. Christy O'Connor (T60) and Kite (T70) also played all four rounds at St. Andrews.
At the PGA Championship, only two Seniors qualified for weekend play. However, both made the most of their extended stay. Watson tied for ninth, while Kite tied for 19th. The two men played in the same group together on Sunday - three hours later than Colin Montgomerie! Watson shot 65-68 on the weekend. Kite shot all four rounds at par of better.
Next year's rookie crop on the Senior Tour includes, among others, Bruce Lietzke, Mark McCumber and Q-School medallist Bob Gilder. Gilder will be eligible for the season's first full-field event. However, Lietzke and McCumber will have to wait until July and September, respectively, before they officially turn 50.
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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”