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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, January 18, 2001

S E N I O R _ P G A _ G O L F

Archer returns

The Senior PGA Tour veteran
begins defense of his MasterCard
Championship today on the Big Island

Tee times

By Paul Arnett

KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- As stellar as the PGA Tour field was at last week's Mercedes Championships, it's tough to beat the Senior PGA Tour counterpart that begins tomorrow at the Hualalai Golf Resort on the Big Island.

The star-studded tournament for the seniors is the $1.4 million MasterCard Championship that features 32 of the best-known golfers in the world.

Defending champion George Archer, who talked of retiring prior to winning last year's tournament, will be looking over his shoulder at such greats as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite and Lanny Wadkins.

Nicklaus and Watson recently teamed to win the Hyundai Team Matches, and appear ready to compete for the prestigious title that's reserved for the game's best. To qualify for this tournament -- which is being being played in Hawaii for a fourth consecutive season -- a golfer must have won a major title in the past five years or a regular senior event the past two years.

The top 10 money winners in 2000 are also eligible to compete for the $210,000 top prize. In all, 16 of the 17 leading money-winners are expected to compete in the 54-hole tournament played on the par-72, 7,053-yard course. Originally, there were 34 players planning to compete, but Raymond Floyd and Christy O'Connor withdrew.

"You always look forward to playing in a tournament like this one," Archer said. "You look at who is in the clubhouse with you and you feel lucky to be involved in something like this, especially at my age."

Most folks figure that Irwin will be the man to beat as the Senior Tour begins its 22nd season. Irwin and Nicklaus will remain in Hawaii to take part in the Senior Skins the following weekend at Wailea on Maui. Arnold Palmer and Gary Player complete the foursome in the made-for-TV event that precedes the Super Bowl.

But as good as those golfers may be, don't be surprised if 1999 Player of the Year Bruce Fleisher is in the mix. Larry Nelson, who is currently the Senior Tour's hottest player, could be there on Sunday as well. He won six events last year and was the Senior Tour's leading money-winner with $2.7 million.

Still, Irwin figures to give him a stern test. He finished second to Archer in last year's event and is still fueled by the fires of competition. Since joining the senior circuit in 1995, Irwin has won 29 titles, 11 more than he won on the PGA Tour.

He has captured six senior majors, including last year's U.S. Senior Open by overtaking Fleisher with back-to-back rounds of 65.

Irwin recently said that he is his own best critic and cheerleader. At 55, he's currently tied with Trevino for most Senior Tour wins, a record he's likely to own by himself before the year is through. He has won $11.7 million the last five years and gives no indication he's ready to put the clubs in the garage for good.

"One of the biggest turning points for me was winning the U.S. Open in 1990," Irwin said.

"At 45, you wonder how many more victories you have in you. I'm looking forward to this season. Hawaii is always a great place to start."

Bullet What: MasterCard Championship
Bullet Who: 32 Senior PGA Tour golfers
Bullet When: Tomorrow through Sunday
Bullet Where: Hualalai Golf Resort, Big Island
Bullet Defending champion: George Archer
Bullet Purse: $1.4 million
Bullet Tickets: $10 each day or $20 three-day pass. Kids free with adult ticket-holder
Bullet TV: Friday 9-11 a.m. (PAX); Saturday and Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (CNBC)

Tee Times

At Hualalai Golf Resort
Tomorrow's first round

Tenth tee
8 a.m.:
Jim Thorpe, Bob Duval. 8:10: Vincente Fernandez, John Mahaffey, Fred Gibson. 8:20: Hubert Green, Leonard, Thompson, Doug Tewell. 8:30: David Graham, Lanny Wadkins, Jim Ahern. 8:40: Dave Stockton, Dana Quigley, Tom Wargo. 8:50: Larry Nelson, Bruce Fleisher, Tom Kite.
9 a.m.: George Archer, Dave Eichelberger, Gary McCord. 9:10: Jack Nicklaus, Gil Morgan, Ed Dougherty. 9:20: Hale Irwin, Tom Watson, Tom Jenkins. 9:30: Lee Trevino, Graham Marsh, John Jacobs. 9:40: Allen Doyle, Joe Inman, Tom McGinnis.


MasterCard Championships

At Hualalai Golf Resort
Yesterday's Pro-Am results

65: Tom Kite, $400. 66 (tie): Joe Inman, Hale Irwin and David Graham, $350. 67: (tie) Jim Thorpe, Doug Tewell, Dave Stockton, Bruce Fleiser, Ed Dougherty, Vicente Fernandez, Allen Doyle and Larry Nelson, $118.75.


51: Jack Nicklaus (captain), $500. 52 (tie): Leonard Thompson and Dave Stockton, $375. 53: Gary McCord, $300. 54: David Graham, $250. 55: Tom Wargo, $200.
56: (tie) Jim Ahern, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Fleisher, Fred Gibson, Ed Dougherty and Larry Nelson, $83.33

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