Senior Players Championship
Getting to Be a Grind
How was your week? Probably better than the Senior tour's. For a
tour struggling through a season of indifference, having Allen
Doyle beat Doug Tewell in a playoff in the year's final major
didn't light up the sky. Don't get the wrong idea, though. Good
golf was played at the Ford Senior Players Championship at the
TPC of Michigan in Dearborn, and the finish was dramatic. Doyle
rolled in a 35-footer for birdie on the 72nd green to force the
playoff, which he won on the first hole after Tewell hooked his
tee shot into a hazard.
That was good stuff, but casual observers wondered, Where are the
stars? Here's what happened to them: Jack Nicklaus limped off
during the second round with a partial tear of his right
hamstring; Lee Trevino came in 36th, 19 shots out of the playoff,
and said he's giving up Senior majors; Tom Watson made three
double bogeys in the third round and didn't mount a charge on
Sunday; and Hale Irwin, the winningest Senior ever with 31
victories, wound up third.
That left matters to Doyle, a three-year tour veteran who is in
danger of outgrowing his role as an underdog. Although he had
done everything this year but win, including losing a playoff to
John Schroeder at the NFL Golf Classic, Doyle, a member of the
Norwich (Vt.) University Hall of Fame as a hockey player and the
owner of a driving range in LaGrange, Ga., has arguably been the
most consistent Senior in 2001; he leads the tour in percentage
of top 10 finishes (81%, 17 of 21).
Rest assured, winning a second major won't inflate Doyle's ego.
Paired with Irwin and Watson during the first two rounds, Doyle
felt as if he were the odd man out. "I know my niche," he says.
"To think that I'm going to carry the same weight as Tom Watson
is ridiculous. When I play with Irwin or Watson or [Tom] Kite,
they aren't very concerned about me, period. If those guys are
playing their best, my best isn't quite up to theirs. But when
I'm off, I'm probably less off than they are."
Nicklaus, 61, is off--completely off. He's skipping this week's
British Open to go sightseeing in Florence and Milan with his
wife, Barbara, and developer Lyle Anderson and his wife, Missy.
"We've never taken a vacation during which I didn't work or play
golf, so I promised we would do that," says Nicklaus.
The vacation was well-timed. Nicklaus suffered the tear while
practicing last Wednesday, then aggravated the injury in Friday's
second round and withdrew after nine holes. He had shot a 77 in
the opening round. Nicklaus still plans to play in next week's
Senior British Open at Royal County Down Golf Club in Newcastle,
Trevino, also 61, officially ran up the white flag in Dearborn,
declaring that the Senior Players would be his final major. That
wasn't a surprise since he had skipped this year's Tradition and
Senior Open. "If I thought for a minute I could win, I'd play,"
he said, "but I won't put in the time. Let someone else have a
That left the stage to Doyle. Because of his unorthodox swing, he
may be the tour's most underrated player. He may also be the most
appreciative. "It still blows my mind that I come to work at the
golf course," Doyle says. "It's hard not to consider myself one
of the luckiest guys around."
Seniors Should Follow the LPGA
The best move by any pro tour in the last decade was the LPGA's
decision to make the Women's British Open a major. The Senior
tour would be wise to follow the LPGA's lead and make the Senior
British Open a major too. This year's Senior British, a European
Senior tour event, will have Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and, for
the first time, Jack Nicklaus. "I consider it a major," says
Palmer. "Whether anybody else does, I don't really care."
Player, who has entered the event every year since its inception
in 1987, winning three times ('88, '90 and '97), is of a like
mind. "It's the most important major because it's played on the
toughest courses," he says. "Royal County Down is way tougher
than any course we play in America."
Most tour players feel the Senior PGA and the U.S. Senior Open
are bona fide majors. Moving the 64-year-old Senior PGA from PGA
National in Florida to a variety of classic venues (Ridgewood
Country Club in Paramus, N.J., this year; Firestone, in Akron, in
'02; and Aronimink, outside Philadelphia, in '03) has given the
event credibility among the players. The Senior Open, inaugurated
in '80, doesn't have the Senior PGA's tradition, but it has the
USGA's imprimatur and is played on top courses too. This year the
tournament was at Salem (Mass.) Country Club, and its future
venues include Inverness and Bellerive.
The other two Senior majors don't measure up. Bad weather and
poor attendance have hurt the 13-year-old Tradition, at Desert
Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., while one veteran says this about
the Senior Players: "It has the biggest purse on the tour, but so
what? It's on a dead-flat piece of property between office
buildings, a Nicklaus humpty-dumpty track that Hale Irwin ate
alive two years ago. This event has no tradition, just money."
Nicklaus entered this year's Senior British Open because, like
Palmer, he has never played Royal County Down, and while he
dismisses the event's pedigree--"It was an IMG production for
years, and that's all," he says--he acknowledges that it has grown
in stature. "The R&A has accepted it," he says. "Someday it could
be a Senior major."
The TV commercial heralding the arrival on the Senior tour of
50-year-old Bruce Lietzke ("He skipped more than 400 PGA Tour
tournaments") is a fun spot--and a sad confirmation that the tour,
dwarfed by Tiger Woods and stuck with CNBC and aging stars, is
desperate to breathe life into its sagging product. Lietzke, a
good guy, is hardly a star and certainly not a savior.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only active tour pros to win a British Open at Royal
Lytham and St. Annes. Ballesteros won there in 1979 and '88,
Lehman in '96 and Steinhauer in '98.
Will Tiger Woods win the British Open?
--Based on 4,283 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Why does Michael Campbell plan to boycott the New
Zealand Open? Ticket prices are too high. Woods's appearance
fee. The frenzy over Woods's first visit to New Zealand has
pushed Campbell out of the spotlight. Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Definitions of: British terms
Backmarkers (players out of contention), break your duck (get
first win), brollie (umbrella), buggy (motorized cart), cracker
(good shot), pip (narrow victory), purple patch (poorly played
holes), trolley (pull cart).
Here's how the cost of a weekly ticket to the New Zealand Open
compares with the prices at the majors and other select
U.S. Open $275
New Zealand Open $205
Canadian Open $195
British Open $183
AT&T Pebble Beach $150
Players Championship $135