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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Year-End Review: These Old Guys Are Good

It was a good year for the Champions Tour. You can sum it up in one word: Freddie.

I know Fred Couples wasn't the whole story for the "old guys." But I think it's fair to say he was the key addition who set everything in motion. My take on things is probably a little different from most people, but I think this is a fair assessment:

The Champions Tour now has the closest thing possible to "Jack vs. Arnie" since the originals strode the fairways.

Bernhard Langer is as methodical and consistent as Jack Nicklaus. Although he lacks Jack's power -- which would probably make him almost unbeatable -- he can certainly hold his own against any field, as he proved this year by winning 5 events that included 2 back-to-back majors on different continents separated by 8 time zones. And of course he won that second one in Freddie's backyard.

Fred Couples has the flash and charisma of Arnold Palmer. He can power the ball out there anytime he wants -- just like the King did so many times -- and you never know when he's going to hitch up his pants and take over the tournament.

And just like Jack and Arnie, Bernhard and Freddie enjoy playing together... and they spur each other on to play better.

Furthermore, if you'll grant me a bit more poetic license, you might even consider this another "Big Three" if you include Tom Watson in the mix. Like Gary Player, the third member of that original legendary trio, Tom continues to surprise people by being competitive long after most had written him off. Between the three of them, the new Big Three nabbed 10 events this year and even made some news on the main tour with their good play.

It's exactly what the Champion's Tour needed. With Freddie as 2010 Rookie of the year and Bernhard as 2010 Player of the Year, it seems the other players agreed.

To me, the only real question mark here is Freddie's back. I've heard that he plans to focus on the Champions Tour in 2011, which should hopefully lessen some of the strain on his back as well as let him square off against Bernhard and Tom even more often.

And of course there will be new rookies for 2011. The main names I've seen are Kenny Perry, Steve Lowery, Ian Baker-Finch, and Steve Pate. Perry will probably split his time between tours, and I haven't heard Lowery's plans yet. Baker-Finch seems the most interesting story to me -- a major winner who lost his game because he felt he wasn't good enough, now trying to make a comeback on the senior circuit. (How often have we heard that story?) And the Volcano won on the Nationwide Tour this year, so his game hasn't slacked off any either.

Like the ladies, the old guys look to be in pretty good shape going into 2011. I guess only time will tell if we get another great year of duels like we did in 2010. Let's hope the Champions Tour makes sure the therapy--er, fitness trailer remains state of the art!

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