Old Hale's in his happy place

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

If you're truly serious about shaking the Tiger Woods scandal, take the feel-good stories of Fred Couples and Tom Watson as an antidote, especially if you're of the same vintage.

According to Hale Irwin, both of their performances at the Masters and Watson's show-stopper at last year's British Open, are setting the bar higher for the Champions Tour, which is picking up credibility with each show of brilliance by one of its regulars.

Irwin does an admirable job himself of representing the elders. After turning pro in 1968, the Neanderthal era to most of today's top stars, Irwin played his 1,000th PGA/Champions Tour event at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay on the weekend.

About to turn 65 and with the all-time record for Champions Tour wins with 45, Irwin is obviously in his happy place, saying his desire to succeed still is strong and that leads to longevity.

STILL HAS THE DRIVE

"I think a lot of it seriously is, for those people who have played for a long period of time and have had some measure of success, I think you still have to want to succeed. As soon as that desire leaves, the game follows very quickly," said the three-time U.S. Open winner.

"Maybe, you just call it pride. Maybe, you call it enjoyment of the game. I don't know if it's a real secret, but I think it has to come from within your heart, your soul, to want to do these things," said Irwin, who will play the Montreal Championship, a new Champions Tour event, in July.

Those jaded by the Tiger affair can take solace in Irwin's own experience that taught him that golf is just one part of an overall life.

"Part of the formula, I think, is not just playing golf," he said. "I think you've got to set a lifestyle and a life standard that will carry over into your golf, rather than golf carrying over into your life. Let's face it, our lives and how we lead our lives is greater than our professional endeavours," he said.

After 20 wins on the PGA Tour, Irwin seemed to catch a new breath on the Champions Tour. He says it may have been a change of pace, a change of venue and just seeing familiar faces from the tour in those new locations, but it also could be because of where he was in his life.

"You're busy raising your family and by the time you get to the Champions Tour, the family's up and out of the house, perhaps starting families of their own, so you're looking at grandchildren. Your whole look at family is a little different," he said.

"You don't have the immediate pressure of raising your children. You're free to go about doing your thing the way you did in the very beginning when you started," he said. "I think your focus is a lot different, your maturity is a lot different at 50 than it is, say, when you're 25."

Hill, Taylor going pro

Matt Hill of Bright's Grove is planning to turn pro right after defending the NCAA championship in June. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., also says he'll turn pro later this year.

Taylor, the low amateur at last year's U.S. Open, was second in recent world amateur rankings, while Hill was 16th.

HUTCHGOLF@NETZERO.COM


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