Irwin Stays Strong Stadler Breaks Out

By Sports NetworkNovember 30, 2004, 5:00 pm
Champions TourWhile celebration for the 25th anniversary of the Champions Tour got underway late in the season, it was old reliable, Hale Irwin, reminding us why he owns the Champions Tour record for wins. As good as Irwin was in winning the season-long Charles Schwab Cup competition, he fell just short in the player of the year race.
With five victories, including three in a row at one point, 'The Walrus' Craig Stadler garnered player of the year honors. He won early, The Ace Group Classic, the season's second event, and often.
Starting at the season's final major, Stadler won The Tradition and picked up titles at the next two tour stops, The First Tee Open and SAS Championship. His other win came in late June at the Bank of America Championship.
To go along with the five wins, Stadler collected nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 21 starts. That consistently solid play helped him out-distance Hale Irwin for the money title.
Stadler, whose son Kevin won twice on the Nationwide Tour this year, also made the cut in four of six PGA Tour events he played in this season.
For The Walrus, his solid play started on the tee where he finished seventh in driving distance and tied for second in total driving. After finding just over 70 percent of his fairways, Stadler finished fourth in greens in regulation at just under 74 percent, while also leading the tour in eagles.
Stadler finished in the top-30 in 20-of-21 events with his worst finish a tie for 42nd at the Bruno's Memorial Classic. There he finished the event at plus- one, the only event he finished over par the entire season. He bounced back from that poor showing with seven straight top-20 finishes, including three top-three showings.
In two short seasons on the over-50 circuit, Stadler has gathered eight wins. The win at The Tradition was Stadler's second major win on the Champions Tour, to go along with a victory at the 2003 Ford Senior Players Championship.
Mark McNulty picked up three titles in the 2004 season, second most behind Stadler, and in doing so gained rookie of the year honors.
McNulty won in his first Champions Tour start at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-AM and then closed the season with a flourish by winning the year's final two events, the SBC Championship and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
The Zimbabwean finished in the top-10 seven times en route to earning $1,423,047 and coming in seventh on the money list.
McNulty was the first international player since David Graham in 1997 to win three times in one year. With his win at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, he became the fifth rookie to title at the season-ending event.
McNulty finished sixth in putting average. That outstanding putting helped him finish fifth on the Champions Tour in scoring average.
The majors always seem to bring out the best in players, Witness tour rookie Pete Oakley holding off two players to win the Senior British Open.
However, the best battle of the season came at the U.S. Senior Open. Another circuit rookie, Peter Jacobsen, posted a final-round 68 to win by one stroke. Hale Irwin finished one stroke behind the eventual champion.
What made the race to this crown even more dramatic was that the final day featured 36 holes after bad weather forced the cancellation of play on Friday.
The win for Jacobsen was his first major and his first win on the Champions Tour. He had battled back from hip surgery earlier in the year that forced him to miss several events. Jacobsen finished the season having played in just nine tournaments.
Jacobsen was fortunate with his steady play. Tom Kite finished two strokes off the pace after stumbling to two bogeys and a double-bogey over his final four holes.
Kite held the lead entering the final round after a third-round 65, but Jacobsen quickly got back into the tournament with two early birdies in the final round. Jacobsen picked up three birdies in a five-hole stretch to join Kite in the lead. Jacobsen parred the last for the one-shot win after Kite dropped off the pace.
At 59, most golfers would be heading towards the twilight of their careers. For Hale Irwin, nothing could be further from the truth.
Irwin collected two wins among his 14 top-10 finishes in 2004. The two wins gave Irwin a record 10 consecutive years with multiple wins. Irwin was no slouch on the PGA Tour winning 20 times. With his two titles this season, Irwin has doubled the total with 40 Champions Tour crowns.
Irwin's 40 wins are the most in Champions Tour history, 11 more than Lee Trevino's 29. Irwin also is far and away the tour's all-time leading money earner, having earned $26,558,996 in 10 years. Gil Morgan, who has at least one win in nine straight years on the senior circuit, is second behind Irwin with $19,578,415 in his nine years on tour.
In baseball, it was Lou Gehrig before Cal Ripken, Jr. came along. In world of golf, Mike McCullough formerly owned the ironman streak.
McCullough ran off 177 consecutive starts for which he was eligible. Enter Dana Quigley. Quigley's streak now stands at 262 consecutive tournaments that he has been eligible for and 248 straight overall.
Quigley owns eight wins during the run and he finished in the top-25 in 20 of 30 tournaments this year.
Hale Irwin is just one of many players making waves in the latter portions of their career. In 2004, 13 of the 30 winners were 55-years-old or older.
The over-60 crowd were pretty solid themselves. Sixty-year-old Bruce Summerhays picked up his third Champions Tour title at the Kroger Classic. That win snapped a streak of 209 straight starts without a win. He became the 13th player in tour history over the age of 60 to win.
There were six different players who shot their age or better. And if that wasn't good enough for you, eight of the 15 holes-in-one this year were fired by players 60 or older.
Two of the most well-traveled golfers, Bob Charles and Gary Player, showed they still have something left in the tank. The 68-year-old Charles became the oldest player since 69-year-old Joe Jimenez to register a top-10 finish when he tied for 10th at the Greater Hickory Classic. Player, who turned 69 on November 1, posted a 66 in the final round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Bruce Fleisher posted wins at the Royal Caribbean Golf Classic and Bruno's Memorial Classic among his seven top-five finishes on the season. He also finished fifth on the money list.
Larry Nelson was also a two-time winner this season, including a playoff win at the Administaff Small Business. He wielded a hot putter all season as he finished second on tour with a 1.747 putts-per-round average. He finished in the top-10 in seven different categories, including putts per round and total driving.
Tom Kite won the 3M Championship and finished in the top-three five other times. Kite had a stellar season in the majors finishing tied for seventh at the Ford Senior Players Championship, tied for second at the Senior British Open, tied for third at the U.S. Senior Open and joint fourth at The Tradition. His lone non-top-10 finish was at the Senior PGA Championship, where he shared 21st place.
Tom Watson had a tough year all around. The first day of The Masters he lost longtime friend and caddy Bruce Edwards to ALS. Overall, he did manage five top-10 finishes in 12 starts, but his season came to an early end as he battled hip and shoulder problems all season. Since he only competed in 12 events, Watson managed to finish just 42nd on the money list.
Dave Eichelberger, a six-time winner on the Champions Tour, managed only two top-10 finishes in 25 starts in 2004. The 1999 U.S. Senior Open winner skipped the Senior British Open and finished no better than a tie for 19th in the other four majors.
Sam Torrance, the 2002 European Ryder Cup captain and owner of 31 international wins, jumped to the U.S. to play on the Champions Tour late in the 2003 season. In his first full season on the tour, Torrance finished in the top-25 just five times in 14 starts with his best finish being a tie for seventh at The MasterCard Classic. By mid-season, he had given up playing full-time on the Champions Tour and moved back to Europe to play on the senior circuit there.
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    New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

    But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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    The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

    “I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

    The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

    “I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”

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    On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

    Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

    All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

    But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

    Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

    At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

    “If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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    Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

    After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

    “We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

    Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

    But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

    “I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

    That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

    Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

    But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.

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    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 12:22 am

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

    Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

    Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

    Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

    Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm vs. (63) Keegan Bradley, halved: Rahm was a runner-up at this event last year, but he got all he could handle from one of the last men in the field. Bradley was 2 up with three holes to play, but bogeys on two of the final three holes opened the door for the Spaniard to escape with a draw.

    Group 3: (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat def. (43) Chez Reavie, 3 and 2: Aphibarnrat took the lead in his group with a victory over Reavie during which he never trailed. The globetrotting Thai held a 2-up lead at the turn and closed things out with a birdie on No. 16. Reavie won only two holes all day.

    Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

    Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

    Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

    Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

    Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

    Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

    Group 7: (7) Sergio Garcia def. (62) Shubankhar Sharma, 1 up: Garcia and Sharma took turns leading this match throughout the day, with the Indian holding a 1-up advantage through 13 holes. But Garcia won the next hole to square the match, then earned a full point with a birdie on the 18th hole in his first competitive start since becoming a father last week.

    Group 7: (20) Xander Schauffele def. (41) Dylan Frittelli, 1 up: The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year got the best of the former Longhorn in a tight match that went the distance. Schauffele led for much of the afternoon before Frittelli drew level with wins on Nos. 14 and 15. But Schauffele won the next hole and held on from there.

    Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

    Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

    Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

    Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

    Group 10: (10) Paul Casey def. (51) Russell Henley, 1 up: Casey is making his first start since winning at Innisbrook, and he scored an early point after rallying back against Henley. The Englishman didn't lead in the match until the final hole, when Henley's tee shot found the hazard leading to an ill-timed concession.

    Group 10: (45) Kyle Stanley def. (31) Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1 up: Stanley is making his first match play appearance since 2012, and he got off to a promising start by edging the Englishman. Fitzpatrick was 2 up with five holes to go, but Stanley won three holes the rest of the way including a birdie on the 18th hole to secure a full point.

    Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

    Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

    Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

    Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

    Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

    Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

    Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

    Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

    Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

    Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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    Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

    Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

    After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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    “I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

    The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.