Bull's-Eye

After a string of near misses, Tom Jenkins finally hit the mark with a playoff victory
June 13, 2005

The good thing about not winning," Tom Jenkins said, "is that you have this motivation to keep playing well." While you're digesting that--and while our researchers comb the archives for comparable quotes about the merits of failure--keep in mind that Jenkins, 57, blurted this dubious aphorism on Sunday afternoon, only minutes after he had beaten D.A. Weibring on the second hole of sudden death at the Allianz Championship in Polk City, Iowa. And what he meant, it seems, is that a string of nearly great golf, such as Jenkins has played in recent weeks on the Champions tour (finishing second twice and climbing to second on the money list, but with no actual triumphs), somehow stokes one's competitive fires and makes victory more, not less, likely. Which, frankly, no one's buying.

For one thing Jenkins doesn't have the street cred to speak for us losers. He played with PGA Tour veteran John Mahaffey on Houston's 1970 NCAA championship team. He milked the PGA Tour for 12 years and won the 1975 IVB-Philadelphia Classic, beating Johnny Miller by a stroke. And while Jenkins hasn't been a Hale Irwin--style trophy barge since joining the seniors in '98, Sunday's win was his sixth on the Champions tour.

"The worst thing you want to do," Jenkins added, "is win and then relax." No, Tom, the worst thing you want to do is what you did on Sunday on the 17th hole of the two-year-old Tournament Club of Iowa, which is miss a three-foot birdie putt. That little slip encouraged Weibring, the defending champion, to think he could make an Allianz runner-up of Jenkins for the second straight year. Only Weibring, a burly, jovial fellow of 52, may have been looking over his shoulder at second-round leader Mike Reid, who seemed happily hung over from his triumph the week before, at the Senior PGA Championship. (Reid, watching his ball soar over hill and dale with the calm amusement of a gardener examining a ladybug, parred the last three holes and finished third, two back.)

"Probably the turning point in the championship, for me," Jenkins said, "was the two par-3s." The Champions tour leader in par-3 scoring average certainly got that right. He trailed Weibring and Reid by a stroke when he got to the TCI's nasty twin par-3s, the 184-yard 15th and 198-yard 16th. With a three-club wind whipping the treetops, Jenkins, who makes his home in Austin, drilled a seven-iron over the ravine on 15 and sank a 15-footer for birdie. He then crossed the road and smoked another seven-iron across a pond to the 16th green, where he rolled his 18-footer downhill and into the hole for his second straight deuce. "Anybody who makes birdies on 15 and 16 deserves to win the tournament," Weibring said. "That's impressive."

Weibring has been equally impressive of late, winning the Bruno's Memorial Classic in Alabama in mid-May. This time Weibring looked as if he might close out Jenkins on the first hole of sudden death, the par-4 18th, but Jenkins survived on the strength of a splendid up-and-down from gnarly greenside rough. On the second playoff hole, the par-5 17th, Jenkins drove into the right rough and had to hack back to the fairway with a wedge. But just when it looked as if he would leave Iowa a highly motivated loser, Jenkins finessed a pitching-wedge shot that stopped five feet behind the hole. All that was left was a close miss for birdie by Weibring--his nine-footer burned the left edge--and Jenkins's answer, which curled in on the low side.

"It's a big relief," Jenkins said afterward. Then he aired that screwy notion about winning being a curse because it breeds complacency. "I never have won more than one event a year on the Champions tour," Jenkins pointed out.

A quick look at the record book confirmed his assertion. But there's another theory about winning, which is that you should never let a Texan with a pale forehead and a sunburned right hand blow smoke up your butt--particularly when he's just walked off with 225 grand.

That's the worst thing you want to do. ■

CHAMPIONS TOUR MIDSEASON REPORT

Hot Shot

Former beer truck driver Mark Johnson's 89-yard hole out for eagle on the final hole of the Toshiba Senior Classic. The sand wedge shot, which sealed his four-shot victory, landed behind the flagstick and spun back into the hole.

 

EXPECT-O-METER

Every season starts with a range of expectations. Here's how some of golf's biggest names have measured up

 

Jay Haas

EXCEED

T9 @ Match Play

24th @ Players

T9 @ Legends

FELL SHORT

MC @ Senior PGA

 

Curtis Strange

EXCEED

T5 @ Fedex Kinko's

FELL SHORT

49th in debut @ ACE Group

Ugly 64th @ Senior PGA

 

Craig Stadler

EXCEED

2nd-round 60 @ Blue Angels

T9 @ Sony Open

T4 @SBC Classic

FELL SHORT

WD @Senior PGA

 

Rick George

EXCEED

26 sponsors commit through '06

Average purse $1.8 mil

FELL SHORT

ACLU threat to sue over cart ban

 

SCENE STEALER

Mike Reid, who sank a 20-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole to get into a three-man playoff with Jerry Pate and Dana Quigley at the Senior PGA. Reid won with a birdie on the first extra hole.

MONEY PERFORMER

In his second year on tour the 51-year old Mark McNulty is ninth on the money list with $660,519, thanks to seven top 10s, including two seconds, in 10 starts.

POTHY (player of the half year)

Iron man Dana Quigley. He has only one win, but he leads in money, is second in scoring average and is first in the all-around stat category. Oh, yeah, and he tied for second at the Senior PGA.

Second Chance

Joe Inman, who had taken a bath with five water balls in a row at the Senior PGA, evened the score in Iowa

When we last saw Joe Inman, at the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago, he was making a 15 on the 18th hole at Laurel Valley Golf Club. (Sand wedge from 95 yards, splash ... splash again ... splash, splash, splash....) Last Friday at the Allianz Championship, on his very first hole since the, er, mishap, Inman found himself in the fairway with a sand wedge in hand, 95 yards from the hole. This time his ball was in a divot. Cool customer that he is, Inman spanked this one at the flag and holed out for eagle. "In golf there are no yesterdays," he said. "There is only today."

TWO COLOR PHOTOSPhotographs by DAVID WALBERG LAYING IN THE WEEDS Jenkins (inset and above left) came from three shots back to tie for the lead with back-to-back birdies on par-3s on Sunday. COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by DAVID WALBERG NO DEFENSE Weibring, the '04 champ, missed a 10-footer to open the door for Jenkins. COLOR PHOTOCHRIS CARLSON/AP (JOHNSON) COLOR CHART  EXCEED  

FELL SHORT
TWO COLOR PHOTOSFRED VUICH (REID, MCNULTY) COLOR PHOTOCHRIS CONDON/WIREIMAGE.COM (QUIGLEY) COLOR PHOTOPhotographs by DAVID WALBERG WILL HE CATCH A WAVE? Jenkins, 57, has never won more than once in a year. COLOR PHOTOCHRIS CARLSON/AP (INMAN) TWO COLOR PHOTOSPhotographs by DAVID WALBERG ROUGH RIDE The Champions tour's ban on carts went into effect in January, but they were in use at the Tournament Club of Iowa, which has 6 1/2 miles of paved cart paths, many of them snaking up and down steep wooded escarpments. So perilous is the terrain that holes 11 through 14 were closed to spectators.

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)