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Zoeller looking forward to title defence

Fuzzy Zoeller enjoys all the attention that goes with defending a title especially a major.

Zoeller ended a 15-year winless streak when he won the Senior PGA Championship last year as a rookie. He defends that title starting Thursday at Aronimink Golf Club.

``It's good coming through the gate, seeing your picture on the tickets, on everything,'' Zoeller said. ``It means you did something well.''

Zoeller didn't know what to expect when he teed off against a field that included players he had battled for more than two decades the PGA Tour.

Zoeller closed with a 2-under-par 68 last year and beat Hale Irwin and Bobby Wadkins by two strokes in the over-50 circuit's oldest major championship. At 2-under 278, he was the only player to finish under par at Firestone.

The victory was Zoeller's first since winning the Anheuser Busch Classic in 1986 and was his first major championship since the 1984 U.S. Open, when he beat Greg Norman in a playoff. He also won the Masters in 1979.

``With golfers, we're judged by what we do in the majors,'' Zoeller said. ``I've been fortunate in my career.''

Zoeller will be defending his title against a field that includes Irwin, a three-time Senior PGA winner and the leading money-winner on the Champions Tour this year, Jack Nicklaus, Jay Sigel, a two-time U.S. Amateur champion and Aronimink member, Tom Watson, the 2001 Senior PGA winner, and Craig Stadler, a 12-time PGA Tour winner playing his first senior event.

The par-70 Donald Ross-designed course is relatively long at 6,928 yards, and should play longer because rain has soaked the grounds.

Zoeller has three top-10 finishes this year and is optimistic and excited about playing an old-style course dominated by long par 4s.

``I have a good feel coming in,'' Zoeller said. ``I'm driving the ball accurately. Any guy who wants to win here has to drive accurately to keep it out of that rough.''

Stadler could be the wild card. He'll be making his seniors debut after turning 50 on Monday.

``I haven't been doing well recently, but now I'm thrown in the limelight and everybody expects you to be at the top of the heap again,'' Stadler said.

Stadler made only three cuts in 10 PGA Tour events this year.

 

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