Champions Tour WHERE WE ARE Parity is close at hand, with a wave of solid newcomers coming on line, but for now the over-55 stars (Hale Irwin, Gil Morgan and Larry Nelson) still reign

June 14, 2004

AND THE AWARDS GO TO ...

Player of the Half Year
Gil Morgan leads in money and Bruce Fleisher has two wins, but Hale
Irwin (right) refuses to leave the building. The greatest senior in
history reinforced his standing with his victory at the Senior PGA,
his second W of '04.

BREAKOUT PERFORMER
Call it Arnie's Last Charge: 74-year-old Arnold Palmer (below left)
made six birdies, won five skins worth $140,000 and would've taken
the Champions Skins Game title outright--plus $260,000, the biggest
tournament paycheck of his career--if he could've holed a
seven-footer on the final green.

BIGGEST FLOP
They have their excuses, but rookies Peter Jacobsen and Jay Haas,
who were supposed to save the tour, have been missing in action.
Jake finished third in his first--and only--senior event, then
needed hip surgery, but he plans to return this week. Haas is
gunning for one last Ryder Cup, so he didn't make his senior debut
until nearly six months after turning 50.

Best Shot
Larry Nelson's five-iron to three feet on the par-5 8th hole at the
Kinko's Classic, which he made for eagle, propelling him to his
18th Champions tour win in eight seasons.

Worst Shot
Fuzzy Zoeller's errant approach from 147 yards on the 54th hole of
the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. He needed a birdie to shoot the
first 59 on the Champions tour but made bogey and settled for a 61.

CLUTCH PUTT
How about some love for lag putting? Irwin's 40th senior victory,
at the Senior PGA, hinged on getting down in two from 40 feet on
the final hole. He traversed a large tier and burned the edge of
the fringe en route to the winning tap-in.

IN THE NEWS

TIME ROLLS ON
Carts will be banned on tour next year, except for players who
qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's both a
symbolic move, repositioning the Champions as more about
competition than nostalgia, and a way to clear out the
poorer-performing older players. Don't be surprised if a
sixtysomething player challenges the cart ban in court.

BAD PRESS
On May 31 Craig Stadler (right) was arrested on drunken driving
charges en route to a media event for the Ford Players Championship
in Dearborn, Mich. Stadler pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of
operating a vehicle while impaired and had to pay $900 in fines and
court costs and attend an alcohol awareness class and victim-impact
panel.

ON THE COUCH
Sure it's a gimmick, but the on-course sofa used by the Golf
Channel's Tom Nettles gets the players to sit down, relax and be
themselves, leading to the kind of entertaining and revealing
interviews that seldom come out of the TV tower or press room.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY GARY BOGDON BAD START Jim Thorpe earned his eighth career Champions victory at the Farmers Charity Classic in Ada, Mich., but only after the coleader heading into the final round, Andy Bean, withdrew because of an allergic reaction to his breakfast. Bean passed out before his tee time and had to be taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated and released. COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (IRWIN) COLOR PHOTO: ED REINKE/AP (PALMER) COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES (ZOELLER) COLOR PHOTO: REED SAXON/AP (STADLER)

2ND-HALF PREDICTION

The more mature seniors will fight over a few more majors before
the tour's new sheriff--short-game wizard Eduardo (El Gato) Romero
of Argentina--takes over in July.

Best Quote

"No, I need a vodka tonic. Water? What is this, the PGA Tour?"
--Zoeller, during the Outback, when asked by a volunteer if he
would like a bottle of water

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)