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Fleisher set for season's second senior major

On a day when heavy rain had most players staying indoors instead of playing a practice round for the 62nd Senior PGA Championship, Bruce Fleisher arrived in sunglasses.

His huge smile seemed to bring a sense of warmth to the locker room at the Ridgewood Country Club today.

''This is a blessing,'' Fleisher said. ''There isn't a day that doesn't go by when I don't count my lucky stars.''

Why not?

After earning roughly $1.7 million toiling for 28 years on the PGA Tour, Fleisher has pocketed $5.75 million in just over two years playing with the 50-and-over crowd on the Senior PGA Tour.

''It took me $3 million to make $1.7 million on the other tour,'' Fleisher quipped as he put on his rain gear and got ready to play a few holes for the 72-hole event that gets under way Thursday.

Fleisher has to be one of the favorites to win. He has won twice in his last four events, and 13 times since joining the senior ranks.

While that is a remarkable performance, in some quarters, it's also part of the senior tour's problems.

The fans want to see the legends who made the sport so popular win.

Unfortunately, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Raymond Floyd aren't doing that as much.

Instead, players like Fleisher, defending champion Doug Tewell, Allen Doyle, Mike McCullough, Ed Dougherty and Jose Maria Canizares - not exactly household names - are taking home the big dough.

Fleisher understands what the fans want, but he thinks there are better days ahead.

''I think there has to be a period when there is a lull,'' Fleisher said. ''There has to be a period of transition. Just look at the other tour. Until Tiger (Woods) came along, it was pretty flat.''

Fleisher said there is help coming for the tour in the next couple of years. Ben Crenshaw, Bruce Lietzke and Fuzzy Zoeller will all soon turn 50. It won't be too long after that that Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and others are eligible.

With Palmer, Nicklaus, Trevino and Player all playing less, the burden is now on the current senior players.

''It's up to these new guys to be a little more giving, whether it be to the sponsors, the spectators or the volunteers,'' Fleisher said. ''It's up to us.

''It's not up to the system, it's up to us to make it a fine show - smile a little more. This is fun!'' Fleisher said. ''It's not life and death. This is a gift, and these guys better wake up to the fact what's at stake.''

Fleisher is looking forward to the first major of the senior season. Not only has won twice, he has seven top-10 finishes and earned $862,092.

''I've had a good year and I want to go deep into this,'' Fleisher said.

Seeing Hale Irwin sitting close by, Fleisher said he wouldn't mind being in the final pairing with him Sunday.

Irwin just laughed.

Never trust a guy in sunglasses, he quipped back.

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