Champions Tour Insider: Allen could learn from Mize

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Rookies Michael Allen (left) and Larry Mize were the top finishers at the Senior PGA Championship last week.
May 27, 2009
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

If Michael Allen wants some insider information on the Champions Tour, all he has to do is look up Larry Mize.

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Allen's experience with the Champions Tour is limited but splendid. In his debut last week, Allen won the Senior PGA Championship and in the process became only the second golfer ever to win that title in his first Champions Tour appearance. The first: Arnold Palmer.

Allen and Mize, also a Champions Tour rookie, finished 1-2 at Canterbury Golf Club in suburban Cleveland. Allen's 1-for-1 performance chart on the Champions Tour is in direct contrast with his record on the PGA TOUR -- 0-for-334.

At first blush, that might suggest Allen, who celebrated his 50th birthday on January 31, can't wait to join the Champions Tour full time. That isn't the case. Allen is determined to win on the PGA TOUR, which would give him the rare distinction of becoming the first golfer ever to win on the Champions Tour before winning on the PGA TOUR.

If Allen calls Mize, what he'll hear is an unqualified approval of the Champions Tour.

"It's wonderful out here," said Mize, who played in his first Champions Tour event in September. "I'm still in my rookie year and I think it's great. The guys are great, the courses are good, the competition's great."

By that standard, Mize is confident Allen will have no trouble fitting in when the San Mateo, Calif., native decides it's time to switch.

"We have played a lot together," said Mize, who is teeing it up this week at the Principal Charity Classic. "Michael's a nice guy and he's a very good player. Obviously, I think he'll do well out here."

The Senior PGA Championship was Mize's best finish on the Champions Tour. He arrived last fall and played in four events with the best finish at T13 at the Administaff Small Business Classic in October. Mize played his way into the Champions Tour last year by appearing in 16 PGA TOUR events, including a top-10 finish in Puerto Rico.

This year, he has concentrated on the Champions Tour with one exception: the Masters, where he is a past champion. In 1987, Mize won a three-man playoff against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros.

Mize has four top-10 finishes in nine events this year on the Champions Tour, with three of those coming in his last four events. He points to the Cap Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic as a turning point.

"Even though I finished like 30th or something, I started playing better," said Mize, who tied for 33rd. "I went to Augusta and played well. I went to Tampa and played well. And then I finished fourth and second.

"So I've been on a nice roll. I was just trying to carry the momentum into (the Senior PGA) and I did a pretty good job with it. But I've been playing well the last couple of months."

Mize acknowledged the finish at Canterbury was bittersweet.

"It's kind of two emotions at one time," he said. "I'm very pleased with the way I played all week. Just caught the wrong guy on the wrong week. So there's a little disappointment, from not winning, but overall, I played really well. And take your hat off to Mike, he played really well."

Mize was playing in his first Champions Tour major. He said it "definitely" felt like the majors he's accustomed to as a Masters winner.

"The nice thing for me, it was my second major (this year), since I played Augusta," he said. "I really used that as a positive. I said I had already played one major and so I kind of rode that out as well after playing well (in the Masters).

"It definitely it felt like a major coming down the stretch. The intensity was there and it's a good golf course. You had to put the ball in the fairway, hit your irons good."

There was another strong indicator of the event's major status.

"I was nervous," Mize said. "I couldn't get enough water because I had a cotton mouth. It's funny. They say you want to be so nervous you can't spit and I don't think I could. Everybody gets nervous different ways and this is the first time I've had this dry of a mouth, I think.

"But it was a lot of fun. This is why we practice. This is why you work hard to get in this position and trust your game and let it go. Easier said than done."

Champions Tour Insider notes:

• Allen's victory at the Senior PGA Championship was worth 720 points and immediately made the rookie a factor in the Charles Schwab Cup standings. With the double points he earned at the Senior PGA Championship, Allen is in second place, 202 points behind leader Bernhard Langer. Mize also made a big jump, improving from 24th place to third in the standings.

• Allen on perseverance: "I got discouraged enough in the late or mid 1990s to quit. And I went and tried to build some homes ... it has been a lot of frustration, a lot of good times, a lot of tough times. But in the end you're playing golf. And on the PGA TOUR, you can make so much money. I can't make that money any other way in life. So to me it is a struggle, but it's a struggle that I enjoy every day."

• Actor Michael J. Fox will play in the Pro-Am this week at the Principal Charity Classic. It will be his second Pro-Am this year following the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Tampa.

Bruce Fleisher (60 years old) and Gil Morgan (62 years old) proved they're not too old to compete in majors. Fleisher finished solo third at the Senior PGA Championship and Morgan tied for fifth. Tom Watson, who will be 60 in September, finished fourth.

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