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Big names set to boost Champions Tour

A new wave of major winners is about to join the senior tours in the United States and Europe, and could dominate over-50s golf for the next decade.

Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price and Mark O'Meara will be able to join the senior ranks next year after turning 50. Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Hal Sutton are eligible in 2008, and another group of major champions -- Tom Lehman, Bob Tway, Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Mark Calcavecchia -- arrives in 2009.

"To have these fellows coming along is going to be a great addition, so it's looking very healthy," said Gary Player, the owner of six senior majors at age 70 to go with the nine he won on the regular tour.

Greg Norman has been playing a few senior events for two years, while Senior British Open champion Loren Roberts and runner-up Eduardo Romero -- who fought out a thrilling final round on Sunday -- are also only in their early 50s.

Tom Watson, who turns 57 in September, will find it tougher to add to his four senior major wins.

Faldo, Ballesteros, Price and O'Meara should play in next year's senior majors -- including the Senior British Open at Muirfield, as it follows the British Open at Carnoustie. Langer will have to wait because he doesn't turn 50 until late August.

Player says the newcomers shouldn't think it will be easy winning senior tournaments.

"I think [in] the last few years the British Seniors has been an eye-opener for people to realize that the standard of play is not good -- it's phenomenal," the South African said.

"For a player in this weather, on this links course, shooting 11-under-par, and then Carl Mason and Tom Watson shooting a lower score [17-under] here than I think Watson and Jack Nicklaus did in 1977 [during the British Open, lower than they did in their prime," he said. "Two weeks ago in America, on a course which was as tough as the Open course, 14-under won it."

Player believes that the new arrivals have the potential to dominate the tours, but said that they will have to play regularly to make an immediate impact.

Faldo currently spends much of his time in the United States as a TV commentator, and Ballesteros, whose game has suffered after a series of back problems, has only just returned to competitive golf after a break of almost three years.

"I think Bernard Langer will do very well," Player said. "He's in great shape. I think Seve will struggle initially and I think Faldo will struggle. The only reason I say that is because they're not putting all their time into golf, whereas Bernhard Langer is putting in a lot of time."

The involvement of players who were behind Europe's Ryder Cup turnaround in the 1980s has rekindled suggestions that there should be an equivalent competition among the seniors.

European Seniors Tour Managing Director Alan Stubbs suggested that it would probably be the United States against an international team. That would include Norman of Australia, Argentina's Eduardo Romero and Japan's Joe Ozaki.

"It's more liable to be a Senior Presidents Cup," Stubbs said. "It brings in more players -- with Romero going well this week and people like Greg. There's a willingness to create this event sooner rather than later."

August 1, 2006

 




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