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Curtis Strange getting ready for senior circuit

The microphone has been put aside. The big titanium driver is back in his hands. The airline schedules are nearby. Curtis Strange is again ready to hone the golf game that once carried him to the mountaintop.

On Jan. 30, he turns 50. That's a magic number in the ranks of touring pros, the time one can dip into that rich annuity known as the Champions Tour.

"I'm excited . . . I'm looking forward to playing on a more regular basis," Strange said. "I'm a little apprehensive, too, I guess."

It will be an adjustment of sorts for a guy who has spent the past eight years in the TV booth as the lead analyst for ABC.

But the Champions Tour thrives on new faces and big winners. The popular Strange, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens (1988-89), will be a welcome sight, and many feel he can become a dominant factor.

"We'll find out," Strange said, with an air of caution. "I'll let my clubs do the talking. Just put it this way: I'm going to give it a go."

He'll tee it up for the first time in the Ace Group Classic in Naples, Fla. (Feb. 10-13) and play in 18 events during the year or as much as a temperamental back will let him.

"I'm practicing regularly and working to get back in shape," Strange said. "My real training is going to be out there playing.

"Making a tough shot in a $2 Nassau is one thing. But to hit a delicate pitch over water or make a curling 6-foot putt under pressure, you can't practice. You have to go out and do it under the gun."

Strange left the broadcasting booth last fall when negotiations on a new contract reached an impasse.

"Eight years ago, I chose television because I was sick of struggling and I had the option of trying something else," Strange said. "I resigned for the same reason - I had an option, I could play the senior tour."

Strange's game is not as finely tuned as it was two decades ago when he won 17 tour events and became the first since Ben Hogan (1950-51) to win consecutive U. S. Opens. But he's eager to regain some of the luster that faded during his Ryder Cup captaincy and his years in the TV booth.

"The Ryder Cup time didn't affect my game . . . that was a joy," Strange said. "I hear guys say that it took two years out of their life. Man, it enhanced mine. I totally enjoyed every minute of that time."

He has no regrets, either, for the time logged in the TV booth.

"Those eight years were fascinating to me," he said. "I made a lot of good friends. We worked hard at it. We took it seriously. I'm better for it. If nothing else, my vocabulary is better.

"I thought I was going to do it for a long time. But different people come in and things change. I chose to move on. Everything works for the best."

In an ideal world, Strange would like to mix some TV work with his senior tour play. But television brass is always looking for new faces, young talent.

"Once you're out of it, you're kinda ancient history," said Strange. "That's fine. I weighed all the options before I resigned."

Now he's anxious to get on with the next step in a successful golf career.

He and son Tom finished tied for third in the Office Depot Father-Son Challenge last month after a strong final-round 59 in the two-man scramble. That stirred his competitive juices.

"I've played enough recently to realize that I do need work," Strange said. "That work will come when you play competitive golf week after week. That's the way you hone a winning edge.

"Who says I can do it again on a consistent basis? That's what we're going to find out."


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