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THE SHORT STUFF

Colbert Looks for Old Magic

May 08, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

It didn't seem like much to celebrate, but because it was Jim Colbert's first top 10 in two years, placing third last week at the Champions Tour event in Birmingham, Ala., it was as good an excuse as any.

After all, Colbert, 62, used to rule the Senior Tour, winning 18 times between 1991 and 1996, but only twice since then.

There's no reason to feel sorry for him, Colbert says, because he's healthy, his back doesn't hurt, he is completely unaffected by prostate surgery and he's feeling more confident than he has in a long time.

"It's a lot of pressure playing without any excuses," Colbert joked. "I'm encouraged, but talk is cheap. This is a hard game. It doesn't always happen exactly when you think."

Maybe, but it happened often enough for Colbert to make what he calls "a decent living" in the 50-and-over league.

A 20-time winner, Colbert has $11 million in prize money to show for his work. He led the tour's money list twice and was among the top 10 money winners seven times, the last in 1996 when he won five tournaments.

Since then, it has been tougher. Colbert had prostate surgery in 1997 and missed four months and his back has been a problem for years, but he holds out hope that he's a threat to move up on the money list again.

"I don't think it's an age thing," said Colbert, whose last victory was the 2001 SBC Senior Classic at Valencia, the same week he turned 60. "You know you can still compete, you just don't know if you can still compete for the money title. That's what I'd like to find out. I know I've got the guts to try it."

Colbert says he saw results after putting a new driver in his bag last week, a Callaway Great Big Bertha II with a loft of 8.0, plus a Callaway prototype, forged L-wedge, designed by noted wedge guru Roger Cleveland.

Three weeks into an eight-week tournament stretch, Colbert started the streak with a pledge to play better, or else.

"I said 'Either I do something these eight weeks or I'm history,' " said Colbert, who knows the oldest player to win a Champions Tour event was Mike Fetchick at 63.

A late bloomer on the PGA Tour, Colbert had his best year when he was 42 and notes that he was better in his 40s than his 30s and better in his 50s than his 40s.

Said Colbert: "I've got something to prove in my 60s."

*

Counting Mike Weir's victory at the Masters, that's two wins for lefties in the last four weeks, after Steve Flesch turned the trick at New Orleans. Flesch, who won for the first time in his six-year career, showed how it's done: no bogeys the last 55 holes.

The last time there were four victories by left-handers was when Phil Mickelson won four times in 2000.

*

The work isn't getting any easier for David Duval, who has missed five cuts in a row. The last time that happened to Duval was, well, never.

Duval is also working on another unwanted streak of 12 rounds over par. His drop in the rankings is remarkable, from No. 2 in 1999 -- when he was ranked No. 1 for 15 weeks -- to No. 3 in 2000 and 2001 to No. 15 in 2002 to No. 64 this week.

*

The best question-and-answer of the week was this exchange between a reporter and Grace Park after she won at Kingsmill:

Q: Would you have thought you could have three double bogeys in a tournament and win it?

Park: That wasn't my plan.

*

The quote of the week was from Scott Verplank, who shot a 74 and blew a three-shot lead at New Orleans. He said he didn't play well but couldn't explain why.

Said Verplank: "I just didn't, I don't know, I mean, you know, if I was out there, I would have corrected it. I don't know. I mean, like I said, if I knew what I was doing I would have fixed it in a hurry."

*

No U.S.-born player has won an LPGA event in nearly nine months, since Meg Mallon won the Montreal Canadian Women's Open last August. Koreans Park, Mi-Hyun Kim, Se Ri Pak and Hee-Won Han finished in the top 10 at Kingsmill.

Park noticed.

"We are good, aren't we?" she said.

*

Annika Sorenstam's PGA Tour debut at Colonial is two weeks away. Sorenstam, who isn't playing the week before Colonial, was sixth at Kingsmill, where she closed with a round of one-under 70 that included an eagle, five bogeys and four birdies.

Said Sorenstam: "Hey, I hit seven greens and shot under par. A lot of people could shoot 80."

Note to Annika: You try that at Colonial and you will shoot 80.

Also, offshore bookmakers have established 4-1 odds against Sorenstam making the cut at Colonial.

This week, Sorenstam is in Tokyo, playing the Nichirei Cup and she's taking next week off to prepare for the Colonial.

Sorenstam is on the cover of the June issue of Golf Magazine -- the first woman to be on the cover since Judy Rankin in 1977.

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