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Irwin Still One to Beat

June 12, 2003|Michael Arkush

1 Who's hot: The remarkable 58-year-old Hale Irwin, even with a so-so performance in the Senior PGA Championship. Irwin continues to fight off younger challengers. With 37 victories, he's setting a standard that may never be eclipsed.... Bruce Lietzke, only two finishes out of the top 14.

2 Who's not: Jim Thorpe, who except for a fourth-place finish at the inaugural Kinko's Classic in Austin has played poorly since early March. Thorpe, 54, is too young to hit the wall.... Ben Crenshaw, with only one top 20 in 10 starts. In 28 rounds, he has posted only two in the 60s.

3 Biggest surprises: Tom Jenkins, fourth on the money list. Before this season, Jenkins, who won once on the PGA Tour, had finished no higher than seventh in earnings.... Former PGA Tour official David Eger, 12th on the money list.... Vicente Fernandez, 57, who won for the first time in four years.

4 Biggest disappointments: The winless Tom Kite, with only three top 10s in 12 appearances. As usual, his blade is the culprit. He ranks 57th in putting, not a good omen for Olympia Fields.... Fuzzy Zoeller, also winless. He has only three top 10s since the disqualification episode in February.

5 Best rounds: John Jacobs' two-under 68 in the final round of the Senior PGA. Jacobs, 58, won his first major championship.... Jay Sigel's closing 65 to edge Mike McCullough in Kansas City. Sigel, 59, who has had a series of injuries in recent years, won for the eighth time.

6 Worst rounds: Kite's final-round 76 in Austin. Kite, starting the day with a one-stroke lead over Irwin and Tom Watson, was left behind in the tour's most compelling duel this season.... Des Smyth's four-over 74 on the final day of the Senior PGA, only hours after the 65 he shot in the morning that had put him in the lead.

7 Best shots under pressure: Jacobs' 25-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole in Pennsylvania to take sole possession of the lead. He two-putted for another birdie at 16, converted a key eight-footer for par at 17 and escaped potential disaster with a bold second shot at 18.

8 Worst shots under pressure: Irwin's remarkable blunder at the sixth hole in Austin. After chipping to within eight feet, his par effort stopped inches from the hole. He then whiffed his bogey attempt, and barely hit the ball the next time, winding up with a triple bogey. Remarkably, he won in a playoff with Tom Watson.... Bobby Wadkins' missed three-footer for birdie at the par-five 16th in the final round of the Senior PGA.

9 Coming attractions: The U.S. Senior Open at Inverness in Toledo, a classic Donald Ross layout. The tour will be hard-pressed to match last year's overtime shootout between winner Don Pooley and Watson.... Two weeks later, another major, the Ford Senior Players Championship. Twenty points if you can name last year's winner.... Then comes the Senior British Open in Scotland.... (Stewart Ginn won last year's Players.)

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