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Craig Stadler looking to return to winning ways

Looking for his first victory of the season, Craig Stadler could not pick a better event.

Stadler is back to defend his title at the $2 million First Tee Open beginning Friday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Del Monte Golf Club.

Stadler finished at 15-under-par last year for a three-stroke victory over Jay Haas, the fourth of five 2004 titles. However, this season "The Walrus" has come up empty in 16 events, with a tie for second at the 3M Championship his best result.

Aside from his victory last year, Stadler won the California State Amateur title in 1974 at Pebble Beach and was the runner-up in 1982 in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the PGA Tour's annual stop here.

The tournament format pairs the field's 78 professionals with a junior partner and two amateurs. The top 22 pro-am teams advance to Sunday's final round played at Pebble Beach.

Stadler and Aaron Woodard won last year by four shots over three teams, including the pairing of Dana Quigley and Paula Creamer. Quigley, who has two wins and leads the Champions Tour money list this season, will need a new junior partner as Creamer is in the midst of a LPGA Rookie of the Year campaign that includes two wins.

Joining Stadler and Quigley in the field this week are Loren Roberts, two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange, Hale Irwin and Arnold Palmer.

Roberts is coming in hot as his first career title on the Champions Tour was a major one. Last week, he defeated Quigley on the second playoff hole Sunday en route to winning the JELD-WEN Tradition - the fifth and final major of the season.

Roberts' first Champions Tour victory came in just his third career start on the elder circuit. He didn't win his first PGA Tour title until his 339th start.

Quigley played in four of the five majors this year and finished in the top 10 in all four, losing playoffs at both the Senior PGA Championship and last week. He tied for fifth at the Ford Senior Players Championship and tied for ninth at the U.S. Senior Open.

Pebble Beach will play at 6,822 yards and a par-72. The 6,357-yard, par-72 Del Monte Golf Club replaces Bayonet Golf Course as the tournament's second site.

"I've never played Del Monte. It's short and the greens are soft," Quigley said. "The greens are faster than they look and putting is a little tricky. I'm not good on these type of greens."

 

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