2005: Ironman Quigley shows midseason form

Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii

Having finished first, second and first in his past three trips to the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai Golf Club, Dana Quigley says there simply is something about the Big Island’s Kona coast that “boils my blood.” What about the game of golf itself? That’s easy.

That actually is his blood.

“It’s everything to me. It has been my entire life,” said Quigley, the former New England club professional who seized his first title in two years by outlasting Tom Watson in a three-hole playoff as the Champions Tour raised the curtain on its 26th season.

Quigley, who closed with 6-under 66 Jan. 23, won with a par at the 169-yard 17th hole after Watson (70) flushed a 7-iron over the green and into the lava rocks and made bogey. The pair had finished 54 holes of regulation knotted at 18-under-par 198. Hale Irwin (65) and Gil Morgan (67) finished third, one shot out of the playoff.

For Quigley, who at age 57 is golf’s undisputed ironman, there is no such thing as a day away from golf. The MasterCard marked the 249th consecutive Champions event he has played over the span of eight seasons, and came on the heels of a three-month “offseason” that consisted of 36- and 54-hole daily marathons back home at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Apparently, R&R can be overrated, even for the over-50 set.

“I play all winter long and don’t come in here with any rust at all,” said Quigley, whose ninth victory and $272,000 winner’s check pushed him to nearly $10.5 million in career Champions earnings. “You have to be sharp, and I feel I have a bit of an edge.”

Though Quigley missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole of regulation to give Watson, who was standing in the 18th fairway, a golden opportunity to close the deal, he hardly was chagrined. Bogeys don’t rattle him. (Quigley considers the bounceback stat, which measures how a player rebounds after making a bogey, “the best stat in golf.”) And once Watson missed from 9 feet to win, the assignment of playing a few extra holes at Hualalai played right into Quigley’s wheelhouse.

As the players were shuttled out to the first sudden-death hole, Quigley turned to Watson, who has been troubled by a sore right shoulder and bad left hip, and joked, “I think this should be an 18-hole playoff. Tonight.”

Did Watson laugh?

“Hilary (Watson’s wife) laughed,” Quigley said, smiling. “I don’t care if Tom laughed.”

Golf is not just Quigley’s job, but his deep burning passion. There’s not a thing in the world he’d rather do. His life is simple: Golf, eat, golf some more and watch Bill O’Reilly on TV.

The morning after the MasterCard, as most players made plans to take helicopter sightseeing tours or test Hawaii’s rugged surf, Quigley and his wife, Angie, had a 7 a.m. tee time at Hualalai’s Weiskopf Course alongside two youths who had worked the range all week.

“I know one thing. He’s played a lot more golf the past six years than I have,” said Watson, 55, who was trying to win for the first time since the 2003 Jeld-Wen Tradition.

The tournament seemed firmly in Watson’s hands until late Sunday afternoon. He’d arrived in Hawaii with a freer, wristy putting stroke – he said it felt “flippy” – and opened with a pair of flawless 64s to open a three-shot cushion.

“I’m stuck on a good number,” he said on Saturday evening.

But Sunday, nerves got the best of the once-impenetrable Watson, and loose iron shots led to bogeys at Nos. 11 and 13, his first two bogeys of the week. Watson’s goal had been to shoot 68 and let others come chasing, but he came in two shots too high.

Quigley wasn’t afraid to step through the opening, and he only needed 21 holes to do it. In Quigley’s world, that’s barely half a day’s work.







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