GOLF / PGA SENIORS' CHAMPIONSHIP : Floyd Hopes to Stay on Top of His Game


Most people think senior golf started in the 1980s, when the tour became a financial success.

But long before interest mushroomed, there was a PGA Seniors' Championship.

It began in 1937 at the suggestion of Bobby Jones. He offered Augusta National, where the Masters was in its infancy. Jock Hutchison of Scotland won the senior event, which that year had a purse of $2,000 for golfers 50 and over.

Today, defending champion Tom Wargo will be teeing off in the 55th PGA Seniors' Championship, with a purse of $850,000, including $115,000 for the winner.

There will be 130 professionals, many of them club pros, in the first round on the 6,602-yard Champion course at the PGA National Resort and Spa.

The PGA Seniors' and the U.S. Senior Open are the only senior events that have a cut, and they are two of only five senior events that are more than 54 holes. All of the senior major events are 72 holes.

There will be 11 former champions competing, including Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

Although Wargo is playing well and Nicklaus is always a threat, the favorite is Raymond Floyd.

Floyd defeated Dale Douglass in a playoff to win another senior major, The Tradition, two weeks ago. Last week at the Masters, Floyd finished at one under par to tie for 10th.

"From tee to green, I felt like I played as well last week as I did in Scottsdale," Floyd said. "But the hard greens made it a most difficult golf course."

Floyd lives in Miami Beach, about 1 1/2 hours away. He is not commuting, however.

"If it was just an ordinary tournament," he said, "I'd commute. But this is a major, and there is too much pressure to drive each day.

"I feel like I'm at the top of my game. But you know how things go in golf. It doesn't necessarily mean I'll win. There are some holes on this course that you have to play carefully. If the wind blows like it did today, it'll make some good shots not very good."

Nicklaus, who won in 1991, the year after he remodeled the Champion course, is not happy with his game.

"I have no clue what will happen any time I go out there," said Nicklaus, who Tuesday defeated Palmer in a Shell World of Golf match at Pinehurst in North Carolina. "I thought at The Tradition my game was coming around. Then last Wednesday at Augusta, I played real well. Then, I go out and don't even make the cut.

"The driving is the problem. For years because of the wide fairways at Augusta, I never saw the trees. In the first round, I hit eight drives into the trees.

"At Pinehurst I played very well, but I still had driving trouble. I don't know what will happen tomorrow."

Golf Notes

The PGA Seniors' field will include Jug McSpaden, who will be 86 in July. McSpaden, of Kansas City, Mo., won the Los Angeles Open 50 years ago.

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