Time sure has flown by on the Champions Tour in golf.
The so-called seniors who are currently dominating and making all of the money, are just kids to those of us who remember the beginning of the old men’s tour.
When Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gary Player and a few other famous names became too old to compete on the PGA Tour, someone came up with the terrific idea of having a few tournaments for professionals over the age of 50.
There were only a few tournaments in the first few years, but when Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino turned 50 in 1990, the senior tour expanded and although Trevino dominated, there were enough tournaments where he and Nicklaus went head to head in “Senior Majors,” to keep the public tuning in to ABC almost as often as they watched the regular tour on the other networks.
Then a phenom named Tiger Woods came along in the last few years of the 20th century and the attention swayed back to the regular tour, as Woods was doing things never seen before.
The Senior Tour became the Champions Tour in the 2000s and some great names like Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Ray Floyd began to dominate and that was fine, because they were multi major tournament winners and fans were aware of each of them.
Irwin dominated for quite awhile, but there were more and more instances of unknown pros, such as Bruce Fleisher, Allen Doyle and Loren Roberts, winning more than their fair share of the tournaments.
These were journeymen pros who had had only limited success on the regular tour, but at age 50, they suddenly found that they could beat some of the more familiar names, who had six or seven years of age on them.
Then Bernhard Langer, who was a two-time Masters winner, turned 50 in 2007, and because he was in better shape than everyone else, he began a winning streak that eventually put him past Irwin, as the all-time winner on the Champions Tour.
Now even the venerable Langer is not quite strong enough to win much anymore.
Even worse is that well-known major champions such as Vijay Singh, John Daly, David Duval, Corey Pavin, Davis Love III, Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples have lost the ability to win against 50 year olds.
The leading money winner this year is Steven Alker, a former club pro who no one ever heard of until he turned 50 a year ago.
Scott Parel is another fellow that makes you say “who?”
He has made a lot of money with the seniors, even though he never had success as a PGA player.
Other than Alker, the top players on the Champions Tour this year are Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jerry Kelly, Stephen Ames and Thongchai Jaidee.
Harrington was a very successful tour player, having won three majors, but none of the others were ever anything of interest to anyone before they turned 50.
There is certainly nothing wrong with these new guys coming out and succeeding on the Champions Tour, but unless Tiger Woods decides to join up, when he is eligible in four years, the old men’s tour is going to become quite unwatchable.