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Champions Tour heading for cart battle

They can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and hit the ball almost as far as Tiger Woods but some players on the U.S. seniors tour are furious they can no longer use golf carts on the course.

Competitors on the Champions Tour, aged 50 and above, are heading for a showdown with tour executives who have this year, for the first time, barred the use of electric carts to navigate the fairways.

Players can, however, still use a cart during pro-am rounds at 21 events.

Ed Fiori, like many on the 'golden oldies' circuit, is a former PGA Tour pro and leading the fight against the 2005 ban after 25 years of cart use.

"All the Tour is trying to do is run the old guys off," Fiori, 51, told U.S. magazine Golfweek last week.

"It's discrimination is what it is. The Tour is not thinking straight.

"I'm probably the main case everybody is pointing toward but guys have back injuries, foot injuries. Nothing good can come out of this," added Fiori, who had a heart attack in January 2004.

"Somebody is going to die out there and we certainly don't want to see that -- and I really don't want it to be me."

Fiori told the magazine he and several other players were planning to file a law suit against the PGA Tour, parent company of the Champions Tour, in mid-February.

He said the players had conducted three separate votes last season, with 80 percent of them approving cart use.

Champions Tour president Rick George said the dispute was "unfortunate" but was determined to draw a line after up to 15 players a week took advantage of golf carts towards the end of last year.

"It has to do with image," he said. "It has to do with the fan. We think it's better for the fans and the viewers and provides a better look to our broadcasts and it's better for the condition of the course."

George is backed by some, literally, big-hitting allies. Champions Tour heavyweights Gary Player, Tom Watson and Hale Irwin all support his move while Jack Nicklaus has long been an advocate of cart-less tournament golf.

For Player, who will be 70 in November, the debate could not be closer to his heart.

The South African is one of just five golfers to win all four of the sport's major titles -- the U.S. Masters, the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. PGA Championship -- and is still a regular competitor on the seniors tour.

Health and fitness have long played a big role in his daily regimen and the nine-times major winner believes the issue is clear-cut.

"The whole idea in golf is that we've got to remember we are athletes," he told Golfweek.

"The average man on the street does not want to see us zooming away in a golf cart when he's walking around (in the gallery)."


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