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Thorpe looks to defend Tradition title

Jim Thorpe has a chance to defend his title at the Jeld-Wen Tradition, he'll just be trying in a new place. The Tradition, the final major championship on the Champions Tour, makes its debut in Oregon on Thursday. The event has been played in Arizona for the past 14 years, but this time it is being held at the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha, a Portland suburb.

Thorpe, known for his unorthodox swing, had played just a handful of holes on the course, but suggested the final five tough holes might determine the winner. A light rain fell Tuesday for a Pro-Am on the par-72, 6,994-yard course.

"Having three par-5s in the last five holes is going to be exciting," Thorpe said. "You can't expect to come in at 1- or 2-under par and hold on."

Thorpe made a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole at last year's event at Superstition Mountain, forcing a playoff with leader John Jacobs, and then birdied the 18th hole again to win his first major on what was then called the Senior PGA Tour.

It is the first time the tour has been to Oregon since the 1982 U.S. Senior Open at Portland Golf Club.

"It's a new venue but it's always good to defend," he said with a smile.

Thorpe won his sixth senior tour event two weeks ago, edging Bob Gilder by a stroke in the Long Island Classic.

"I'm coming in with a lot of confidence," Thorpe said.

Gilder hails from Corvallis, about an hour's drive south. He knows the course well, having played it for the Fred Meyer Challenge.

That event was PGA Tour pro Peter Jacobsen's popular two-day event for charity that attracted players like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and David Duval. It ended last year when its sponsor opted not to renew.

"It's always nice to be able to come back and play in your home state, and play for all the people who've supported you your whole career," Gilder said.

He lamented the loss of Jacobsen's challenge, but said the Tradition helps give Oregon a profile-boost, golf-wise. The state was also the host of this year's Women's U.S. Open.

"I think it's just fabulous to have a major championship. It is very important to Oregon," he said, adding: "We put on a heck of a show, I think."

Among the 78 players in this year's Tradition are Jack Nicklaus, who has won the event a record four times, and Tom Watson, who becomes the first player to compete in all nine PGA Tour and Champions Tour majors in a single season.

Watson, who got his first look at the course Tuesday, predicted low scores when the winner is determined Sunday.

"If the greens get a little faster and harder, the scores won't be as low. But I think there will be a lot of birdies on this course," said Watson, the winner in this year's Senior British Open.

 

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