Maria Floyd watched with everyone else on Sunday when her
husband, Raymond, reached the 164-yard 15th hole on the Champion
Course at PGA National Golf Club. A year before, Floyd had stood
on this tee and dumped two balls into the water to the right of
the green to blow a seemingly solid lead and hand the PGA Seniors'
Championship to Lee Trevino. This time, Floyd had a five- stroke
lead, and no way was he going toward the rocks and water hazard
that make this the scariest par-3 on the Senior PGA Tour.
Floyd took a seven-iron and aimed at a palm tree behind the green.
If he gave a thought to last year's double fault, it was that he
made a mechanical error by standing too close to the ball. The
rest of it he blocked out. ``You've got to put those things in the
past,'' Floyd said later. ``And I did.''
Maybe Floyd did, but his wife didn't. ``I wasn't happy until he
was dry on 15,'' Maria said. This time his ball was right on line,
landing safely on the left front of the green. Floyd two-putted
for his par and held his five-stroke margin to the finish. Three
players, one of them Trevino, tied for second.
``Raymond has a good memory,'' Trevino said. ``I thought he might
have forgotten what happened last year. He came in here with an
itch to win, and he didn't want the same thing to happen to him
This was the fifth time on the Senior tour that Floyd, one of
golf's alltime front-runners, has led entering the final round and
gone on to victory. The only lead he has blown was here last year,
when he was two strokes up after 54 holes and four up with nine
holes to play -- exactly the same margins he had last weekend.
But Floyd wasn't boasting about getting even with the Champion
Course by shooting an 11-under 277, or with the 15th hole by
making four pars. ``Believe me,'' he said, ``I've played enough
golf courses that have whipped me, or golf tournaments or holes,
that if I had to try to get even, there wouldn't be enough time in
At 52, Floyd is playing the best tee-to-green golf of his career.
``Better than when he won the Open at Shinnecock in '86,'' said
his son Robert, a freshman golfer at the University of Florida.
``As well as anyone I've ever seen,'' said his caddie Steve
Williams, who used to carry for Greg Norman.
With 10 wins, 13 seconds and four thirds, Floyd has been win,
place or show in more than half the 48 Senior events he has
entered. Still, this was his first win of 1995, and he has
struggled with his putting, once his trademark. He missed only 11
greens all week at PGA National but averaged 31 putts per round.
``I'm not nearly as good a putter as I used to be in my prime,''
Floyd said. ``When I say `my prime,' I mean the early '80s, when I
was winning two or three tournaments a year. I can still putt, but
I'm not as good as I used to be.''
For Floyd and the other seniors who competed in Augusta, last week
was hard to get primed for. With 27 holes to go in the Masters,
Floyd was seven under par and close to the lead. Unable to sustain
that pace, he eventually finished 17th. The last place he wanted
to be on the very next Tuesday was driving up Interstate 95 to
play in another tournament. Then, when he arrived at PGA National,
he was greeted by a scene not usually associated with a major
Avenue of the Champions, which leads to PGA National, will never
be confused with Augusta National's Magnolia Lane. This year it
was adorned with corporate flags advertising Oldsmobile, the GM
Card, Chap Stick and Advil. Attendance was so sparse that when
Floyd went out for a practice round, he nearly had the course to
himself. ``I was home in Miami yesterday and didn't touch a club
and really didn't want to come up here today,'' he said on
Tuesday. ``It's a big letdown after the Masters.''
Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Floyd and four other
former Masters champions were playing their third major
championship in three weeks. To assure network television
coverage, the tour's schedule makers awkwardly sandwiched the
Tradition and the PGA Seniors' around the Masters. Two senior
majors in three weeks is a mistake, one that will be repeated in
early summer because the U.S. Senior Open and the Ford Senior
Players Championship are slotted just two weeks apart.
``The PGA ought to get smart,'' said Dave Stockton last week.
``You don't want to follow the Tradition, and you sure as hell
don't want to follow the Masters. If they can go to some other
date, it wouldn't take Einstein to realize it would be good for
The PGA of America is seriously considering such a move, but
probably not until 1998. Jim Awtrey, the PGA's CEO, has discussed
changing the dates with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Taking
the Seniors' Championship on the road, away from its headquarters
at PGA National, is also likely. ``It is a major, but in South
Florida it gets lost sometimes,'' Awtrey said. ``You look up, and
you have maybe 35,000 spectators for the week. That's not a major.
That's not giving a major what it's due. In another market you
might have 150,000.''
Trevino, who lives nearby in Jupiter Island, agreed. ``This is a
big tournament, our oldest senior tournament,'' Trevino said.
``But I think it's got to travel. I think if you played this
tournament three weeks later and took it to middle America, you'd
pack 'em in.''
What gallery there was at PGA National saw championship
conditions. Except for whatever course hosts the Senior Open, the
Champion is the toughest layout the seniors play all year -- and
the scores reflected it. Stockton, the tour's leading money-winner
in 1993-94 and winner of the 1995 GTE Suncoast Classic, made a
quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 15th hole in the second round on
Friday and shot 77 to miss the cut. With a double bogey and a
triple bogey, two-time Seniors' champion Arnold Palmer shot 86 the
same day, his highest career round as a professional. ``Believe it
or not I thought I might have a good day,'' Palmer said. ``It
started bad and got worse.''
This was also more like Bad Friday than Good Friday for Calvin
Peete. Among the leaders after a first-round 68, Peete slid back
into temporary obscurity with bogeys on four of the last eight
holes to shoot 76. Peete closed with a 77 Sunday and ended up 26th
at three-over 291. His finish wasn't totally unexpected, in spite
of his promising start, even by Peete himself.
Peete has all but disappeared since winning 11 times on the PGA
Tour in a five-year period from 1982 to '86, the most victories by
any player during that time span. But in 1987, Peete's lower back
gave out, and not long after, he and his wife, Christine,
divorced. Knowing he would be eligible for the Senior tour when he
turned 50 in 1993, Peete rested and tried to put his personal life
back together. He remarried and celebrated the birth of his fifth
child, daughter Aisha, who is now 17 months old.
``When Aisha was born, I thought, I've got to be competitive. I've
got another mouth to feed,'' Peete said after last week's opening
round. ``I put four kids through college, and now I've got another
one to put through college, so I've got to try and get as much out
of this body as I possibly can.''
His body wasn't in terrific shape. In 1991 he had suffered a torn
rotator cuff in his left shoulder, and he had opted against
surgery. Instead, Peete followed the advice of his spiritual
adviser, a pastor he met 15 years ago in Fort Myers, Fla., who
suggested meditation. Peete fasted, prayed and meditated for days
at a time. He claims the spiritual cleansing that resulted is the
reason he's able to play golf again. He still has occasional
spasms from a pinched nerve in his neck. ``When I feel the nerve
moving, I try to put pain against pain,'' says Peete, whose remedy
is to karate chop himself in the back of the neck. ``I look at my
game right now and say I'm an accident going to happen.''
As Peete started faltering on Friday afternoon, Nicklaus was
ascending in a way that seemed improbable after his uninspired
opening 76. This was the fifth week in a row that Nicklaus had
played; the last time he played five straight tournaments was in
1970, when he was 30 years old.
The week after his playoff victory at the Tradition three weeks
ago, Nicklaus shot 67 in the first round of the Masters, then
shanked and three- putted his way out of the running with a
second-round 78. ``It's very frustrating, particularly when that
one tournament was what I really was pointing to this year,''
Nicklaus said Wednesday. ``To get myself ready for it -- and I
thought I had myself in pretty good shape -- then to shoot a good
opening round and then do that. Yeah, that's frustrating, very
much so, and disappointing, because you know you're not going to
have that many more chances to do it, if any more at all.''
On Friday, on the 6th tee at PGA National, Nicklaus was six over
and in danger of missing the cut. He played the next 10 holes in
nine under with two eagles and five birdies. With a 66, he
finished the day four strokes off the lead held by Colbert at six
under. Nicklaus's scorecard had 10 3s and a 2, with only 22 putts
-- his alltime low. ``I've had so many periods when I've played
well, it's kind of unusual -- actually, it's kind of fun -- to all
of a sudden not know what's going to happen,'' Nicklaus said.
``I'm not sure which Jack Nicklaus is going to show up tomorrow.''
The Nicklaus who showed up Saturday was the rock-steady Nicklaus
of old. With an up-and-down birdie from a fairway bunker at the
par-5 18th, Nicklaus shot 68 to finish at six-under 210, three
back of Floyd. Tied for 79th on Thursday night, he had climbed 76
places to third. ``A third guy showed up today, not the one who
showed up the first two days,'' Nicklaus said. ``If somebody had
told me I'd be in the last group the last day after shooting 76 on
Thursday, I would have said, `What have you been smoking?' ''
It took until Saturday for Floyd to shake his Masters hangover,
but when he did, he shot 67 for a two-stroke lead over Colbert.
That set up the final Sunday group of Floyd, Colbert and Nicklaus,
with Trevino and Jim Albus, both at five under par, in the
next-to-last group. No one made a run at Floyd, who all but put
the tournament away with a 34 on the front nine Sunday. Nicklaus
bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to shoot 74 and finish
eighth. ``My golf game needs a rest,'' he said. ``You saw that on
the back nine. I think I started resting a little early.''
The names on the leader board Sunday had made it seem like a
major championship. But those tacky corporate flags, the Oldsmobile
behind the 17th tee and that giant box of Advil near the 18th tee
simply have to go before the PGA Seniors' feels like a major. You
would never see those things at a Senior Open.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS:PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Tee to green, Floyd was masterly, but the gallery wasn't Masters-like. [Raymond Floyd; person seated in lawn chair watching golf gamethrough binoculars]COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINSpiritually cleansed, Peete popped to the top of the first-round leader board. [Calvin Peete]
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINOn the verge of missing the cut, Nicklaus played a 10-hole stretch in nine under and finished eighth. [Jack Nicklaus and onlookers]
COLOR PHOTO:PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINFloyd, a fierce front-runner, would have been heartsick if he'd again suffered a final-round collapse. [Raymond Floyd with his hand on his heart]