Can Irwin repeat Medinah magic?

With last major victory there in 1990, he's in hot pursuit of another

PGA notebook

August 14, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEDINAH, Ill. -- He is 9 years older and a few million dollars richer, the result of the success he has had since joining the Senior Tour. Except for the gray in his hair and a more friendly demeanor, there isn't much difference to Hale Irwin now as there was when he won the U.S. Open here in 1990.

Irwin, then the oldest player to ever win the Open at 45 and now the oldest player in this year's 81st PGA Championship, is still in contention in a major championship at Medinah Country Club. With a 3-under-par 69 yesterday, Irwin is at 5-under 139 and four shots off the lead.

"I didn't know I was the oldest guy in the field," joked Irwin, 54. "I should have guessed when I was playing with the youngest guy in the field."

While 19-year-old Sergio Garcia of Spain struggled a bit on the back nine, falling out of the lead with two straight bogeys at 13 and 14 to also finish at 5-under, Irwin moved up the leader board with birdies at 10 and 15. After saving par from 8 feet on the 16th hole, Irwin stopped to get a drink.

"Hey, you're not 50," a fan said.

"You're right," Irwin said.

Irwin hasn't won a regular PGA Tour event since 1994. He hasn't been in the hunt at a major for a while, spending most of his time and energy dominating the Senior PGA Tour. His playoff victory over Mike Donald for his third Open championship came at a time when Irwin's career had stagnated.

"My golf skills are significantly better than they were then," said Irwin, trying to become the oldest player ever to win a major since 48-year-old Julius Boros won the PGA Championship in 1968. "But I don't know if I am the opportunist that I was in 1990."

Despite a recent stretch that has included three victories and a pair of third-place ties in his last five Senior Tour events, Irwin's expectations coming in weren't that high. He had withdrawn from this year's U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June with a sore shoulder after an opening-round 76, and didn't play in the Masters or British Open.

"I don't want to sit up here and tell anybody that I expected to play like this," Irwin said. " However, I don't want to go backwards and say that I don't think I can continue that. Just the opposite."

Cut notables

The cut was made at 2-over 146. Among those to just miss the cut were Steve Stricker, who finished second to Vijay Singh last year at Sahallee, two-time U.S Open champion Ernie Els and former British Open champion Justin Leonard. Woodholme Country Club teaching pro Wayne DeFrancesco also missed the cut after shooting 78-76.

What's in the bag? Former PGA champion Steve Elkington gave his golf bag to a local boy on his way out Wednesday after withdrawing from the tournament when his caddie was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. Little did 4 1/2-year old Ryan Kent know that the bag would become the subject of a report on the Turner sports network yesterday.

"One of my neighbors cames over who I had told about the bag and he said, `There's a big story on TNT that Steve needs some things left in the bag,' " father Scott Kent said. "It's funny, because my neighbor had asked me, `Did you check the bag?' I hadn't yet."

The elder Kent found Elkington's wedding ring and sinus medication in the bag. He returned the contents, but Elkington told him to keep the bag, which weighs about three pounds more than his 40-pound son. It had been the first time the Kents had ever been to a golf course, let along a tournament.

Pub Date: 8/14/99

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