Fred Couples ... he's got the gut, got the gray, got the game ... and he's got two more years to wait for the Champions Tour fray.1)
The US seniors have turned out the lights on their porches, so to speak ... they've put on their slippers, and it's pipes, cigars and a nice port for a much-needed winter break (they're old, you know). With Jim Thorpe winning the weekend's Charles Schwab Championship Cup in Sonoma, Calif., the Champions Tour finished at the weekend with Jay Haas atop the money list ($2,581,001), and Loren "Boss of the Moss" Roberts winning the Schwab overall points series title.
The over-50s won't move from rocking chair to garage (to grab their clubs) until the Three-Tour Challenge and the Father-Son Challenge over the winter Silly Season. But that doesn't mean these old fellers are resting easy. Not yet, oh, no.
Bernhard Langer, Mark O'Meara, Nick Price and John Cook made brief debuts in on the Champions Tour this year. In the next two seasons, guys by the names of Tom Lehman, Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, Hal Sutton and Joey Sindelar hit the senior ranks. Hale Irwin and Tom Watson (and Denis, for that matter) can still kick butt. Nick Faldo and Greg Norman are eligible but much too busy - but if they jumped into the heat of battle, the Champions Tour would be the most competitive of all three US top-flight pro circuits.
Roberts, 52, is far too steady on the greens still to sound like he's quaking in his spikes, but he said it all when he said: "With a lot of the new guys that are coming on, I'm glad to be able to get one now instead of having to wait a few more years."2)
The focus will be on the PGA Tour's dim lights at Disney as Nos. 110-150 fight it out for tour cards, but the best competition of the weekend - bar the Volvo Masters in Spain, of course, will be on the Nationwide Tour. The Top 60 on the junior circuit are squaring off in the Nationwide Tour Championship at Barona, and the top 25 on the tour's money list move on to the 2008 PGA Tour. The competition - like the California wildfires that almost forced cancellation or movement of the event - will be fierce.3)
It takes luck to win a major championship, as they say. Well, major winners Phil Mickelson and Scott Simpson were lucky last week when their houses were spared by the wildfires in California. Both were evacuated however (Simpson twice), and can count their lucky stars.4)
The Turnesa family -- once described as "to golf what the Kennedys are to politics" are back with a vengeance. Marc Turnesa, winner on the Nationwide Tour in Miami at the weekend, is a scion of one of the most famous family names in golf. His grandfather, Mike Turnesa, was second to Ben Hogan in the '48 PGA Championship and won six PGA Tour titles. And despite careers interrupted by the Second World War, Mike Turnesa's six brothers did themselves proud - Jim (won the '52 PGA Championship), Joe (15 PGA Tour titles from 1940-50) and Willie ('38 and '48 US Amateurs, '47 British Amateur). Sadly, none of the immortal clan of Turnesa brothers lived to see their grandson win - Willie was the last of seven golfing Turnesa brothers to pass away, in 2001.5)
Keeping it in the family, you were not
seeing double at the Ginn sur Mer this past week. Those were
identical twins, Derek and Daryl Fathauer, seniors at the University of Louisville and local boys, playing in the first two rounds, and both missing the cut (Derek was 1-over and Derek was 5-over). Strangely
enough, the Fathauer twins are not the first pair of identical twins to play in the same PGA Tour event ... the Strange brothers, Curtis and Alan, both teed it up in the Texas Open in 1981.6)
You can feel sorry for Laura Davies, an unlucky also-ran to the red-hot Suzann Pettersen by a stroke in the LPGA's Honda Thailand event, because she remains stuck on the two regular-tour wins (or one major) she needs to qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame automatically on "points". But don't worry too much ... even if Liverpool-loving Laura never notches those wins, she's a shoe-in in to be voted in to the LPGA Hall via Veteran's Category status. Judy Rankin, Donna Caponi and Marlene Hagge are three others who reached the milestone as "veterans" without the requisite victory milestones.7)
Qualifying School tournaments are a crapshoot - but then we already knew that. How else to describe the fact that Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey" - a former Big Break IV contestant and whose swing would make your eyes bleed, cruised through the First Stage of PGA Tour Q-School in Florence, South Carolina with four rounds in the 60s. In the same qualifier, Wales' Rhys Davies, whose Hoganesque swing promises Ryder Cups and many future titles, missed the cut by a stroke in the same event - thanks to a first-round 74, leaving the marvellously gifted Davies to fight it out in European Tour Q-School to find a place to play in 2008.8)
You've got to admire Dicky Pride's work ethic. At the weather-delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic, Pride was sitting in the clubhouse on 16-under on Sunday night, with six players left on the course. But he stayed overnight just in case there was a playoff. "I didn't want my wife to drive home alone, but I had to stay." ... It didn't matter, as Daniel "Exploding Divots" Chopra made quick work of the victory on Monday morning, but at least Pride stuck around to pick up his $216,000 paycheck. Which is a heck of a lot more than you can say for John Daly.9)
The British elite who once snapped up massive estates and old castles in Scotland for hunting grouse and have now turned to golf for their Highland holiday homes. Shooting birdies, as it were, has turned to shooting birdies of a different kind, as the price tags ranging from £800,000 and £1.3m (that's pounds, folks, not dollars) for new developments around Gleneagles in central Scotland prove. These pads come equipped with fairway views
and underground swimming pools. And we want one.10)
Tim Finchem and his PGA Tour Machine may not win every battle. All around the US, in airports and posh shopping malls, you can find PGA Tour superstores, selling all manner of golf tat at exhorbitant prices. And they're easy to spot - most of them have giant American flags flying outside. However, the developer in PGA Tour-friendly Scottsdale, Arizona, has run into unexpected trouble
, because the local authority won't allow a flagpole higher than 65 feet. And they don't call it Snotsdale for no reason ...