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November 12, 2021

A Walk with the Senior Legends at Phoenix Country Club

Had a wonderful day walking around Phoenix Country Club during the first day of the Champions Tour Final, for the Charles Schwab Cup. In the field were: Phil Michelson, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Bernard Langer, Freddie Couples, Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Vijay Singh along with 27 other players who earned their way into the finals for the Charles Schwab Cup. Some of these "senior" golfers look the same physically as they did 10 and 20 years ago, with Phil actually looking in better shape. One thing that was quite evident was the fact that all still had "game"!

Phoenix Country Club was founded in 1899 and is the premier old classic country club in Arizona. The club hosted the PGA Phoenix Open from its beginnings in 1932 to 1986 or until the tournament outgrew its confined 110 acre location in central Phoenix. Playing at just short of 6,900 yards, with near perfect greens that were rolling at 12 on the Stimpmeter, the course is a perfect venue for an important senior event.

I estimated no more than 5,000 fans were in attendance on Thursday, so getting to see every player was very easy. I watched Michelson for about four holes, Couples for three holes, but mainly stuck with the last few groups which included Els, Jimenez, Furyk, and Langer. Probably saw 14 of the eighteen holes that Furyk and Langer played in the last group. The conditions were perfect for scoring. Temperatures were in the mid-80's, low humidity, and zero wind. The pins, in my opinion, were challenging with many in the back and close to the edges. You had to be precise with your irons shots to get it close and hitting it in the fairway was essential to spin the ball and make it stop on the fast greens.

I've played the course on numerous occasions in similar playing conditions and I felt it was a challenging test that required straight driving and good distance control on your irons. It is not a course that you can hit it anywhere off the tee or scramble with any kind of consistency, but the best of the Champions Tour played it like an easy pushover course. The highest score was a one over par 72 and the average score was 68!

My biggest takeaway was the distance control that I saw exhibited nearly every time on approach shots to the green. Most of the pin positions had an above average degree of difficulty, therefore requiring accurate distance and direction. All seemed to possess that skill. This past year, I have written a number of articles about using the right club, distance control, hitting the center of the club, and shot dispersion. All of this to emphasize the importance of getting the right distance. Yesterday, that point was again made clear. No matter what level of golfer you are, this is a great lesson to learn from golfs' best. Don't worry about the club you have to use, make to go the right distance!

I came away seeing one player that was really dialed in through the entire round. That was Jim Furyk. He drove it straight and irons were solidly struck and he was pin hunting all day. Could or should've made some more putts, but still he is tied for the lead with a six under 65 along with Phil Michelson and Kirk Triplett. Many of these players can and still do compete against the young guys on the regular PGA Tour and Jim still has all the game necessary. Yesterday was a walk well spent watching excellence.

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