Doyle loving the 60s

Daily Pilot

Allen Doyle will tell you the reason he has played so well in the Toshiba Senior Classic is because of his straight drives, not how far they go.

The 55-year-old Doyle, the 2000 Toshiba Senior Classic champion, was second in driving accuracy (80.9% of fairways hit) last year, highlighted by a victory at the FleetBoston Classic and a fourth-place finish in the U.S. Senior Open.

He has won eight times on the Champions Tour in six years and will attempt to extend his streak of rounds in the 60s at Newport Beach Country Club — currently at 14 — when the first round of the 10th Toshiba Senior Classic begins Friday.

“I like the golf course and the reason for that is because it suits my game,” said Doyle, who earned more than $1 million on the senior tour for a fifth straight year. The LaGrange, Ga., native finished ninth on the money list with $1,349, 272 last year.

“You have to hit it straight and I do that and you have to hit the greens and have a pretty good short game,” said Doyle, a resident of La Grange, Georgia.

“If you drive it in the fairway [at NBCC], you will have short irons [into the greens],” Doyle said. “I’m not a long hitter, but I can still reach the par-5s in two. The golf course sets up well for me. I like the old-time golf courses that are not long where you have to drive good and be good at chipping and putting.”

Doyle looks forward to coming to Newport each year.

“My oldest daughter [Erin, 25], who caddied for me for 2 1/2 years … this is her favorite place in the country,” Doyle said. “We stay in a friends’ condo in Laguna Beach that is right on the water and an unbelievable place to stay. [Tournament director] Jeff Purser does a good job running the tournament. The golf course is always in good shape, the attendance with fans is always good … every component you look for [is well done].”

Doyle has won two majors on the senior tour [the 1999 Senior PGA Championship and 2001 Ford Senior Players Championship] shot 14-under-par to seventh at the season-opening MasterCard Championship, where he was amazed with the competition level.

“There were guys who shot 11-under and they barely made it into the top 20,” Doyle said. “Play is better each year.”

Doyle noted the emergence of tour qualifiers Mark McNulty, Sam Torrance and Mark James, along with Peter Jacobsen and Jay Haas, as stoking the caldron of contenders on this year’s Champions Tour. James and Torrance have both played on and captained European Ryder Cup teams.

Jacobsen turned 50 March 4 and makes his Champions Tour debut today at the SBC Classic at Valencia Country Club. He won’t play at Toshiba.

“To pick a front-runner is tough,” Doyle said. “It is going to be the one who gets good breaks and bounces and instead of winning once, wins three, four or five times.

“Haas [finished third] at the Bob Hope [Classic in January], so he can still play,” Doyle said. “Guys in the last three to five years seem to be working harder, training harder and are more determined. The equipment is better and that has made an impact.”

Now that the Golf Channel has exclusive rights to broadcast 25 of 30 tour events this year, Doyle said the tour should benefit.

“I think there will be a renewed interest and vitality on the tour. We hit a flat spot with CNBC. Some people didn’t have it and we were on PAX Friday and a lot of people didn’t have PAX. With the Golf Channel and new names brings hope for an upbeat and exciting year.”