These senior drivers won’t yield at majors

Quality play from the likes of Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and Tom Watson is indication that we may see a 50-or-older player win a regular major in the near future.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Hope springs eternal in the 50-and-older age group, which is why a senior golfer could win a major somewhere down the line.

Not a senior major but one of the marquee events that define a player’s career.

Tom Watson came close to winning the Open Championship at Turnberry last year, Greg Norman the year before. Four seniors – Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Pernice Jr. and Peter Senior – made the cut in this year’s Open. Calcavecchia played in the last group on Saturday before fading, and Lehman finished joint 14th.

Given this evidence, many think the notion of a senior winning a regular major isn’t too far-fetched.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened,” Lehman said. “It could happen on the right course. I can see someone winning the British (Open) because length isn’t really a factor on a links course. But I couldn’t see it happening at a course like Bethpage Black (venue for the 2009 U.S. Open), where you have to hit it long.”

The Champions Tour and the European Senior Tour have given PGA and European Tour pros a new lease of life. For some, it’s the greatest mulligan in golf, allowing them to live out the dream longer. For others, it stokes their competitive fires.

“Guys are staying competitive longer because of the Champions Tour,” Corey Pavin said. “Guys who are in their late 40s are staying sharp in preparation for the Champions Tour. Look at how well Kenny Perry played on the PGA Tour in his late 40s.”

Ian Woosnam agrees with Lehman, that the venue is the biggest factor in whether or not a 50-plus player can take major gold.

“I think if it’s a really extremely difficult course, especially a links golf course, yes (a senior can win), because you don't have to be super long. The ball runs, the fairways are running and half the time you have to hit irons and it’s about positional play. Maybe something like a U.S. Open as well, where it’s not too long and you have to get in the fairway, basically. The PGA is set up the same: tough. The Masters is still long. I can’t see a senior winning around there, but I can see a senior winning an Open Championship quite easily.”

Maybe Watson is best placed to explain why a player 50 or older can capture one of golf’s coveted championships, because he’s come closest. His explanation cuts straight to the chase.

“There’s not a question that it can happen,” Watson said. “We’re still competitive. It’s the love for the game and the love for competition. I play for the competition. I like to compete and beat people.”

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