By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Craig Stadler's health and game haven't been up to where they once were on the Champions Tour. But on Friday, armed with a new partner at the birdie-friendly Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, the Walrus was atop a leaderboard again.
Stadler, less than two months shy of 60, and 51-year-old Kirk Triplett teamed up for an 8-under 64 in the two-man team game, good for the early clubhouse lead. Both golfers play their ball and the best score counts on each hole.
Triplett had the hot putter in the group and Stadler called himself "the supporting cast," but that can sometimes be the case in the unique format. The bottom line was eight birdies and no bogeys at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
Triplett wasn't eligible for the event a year ago, while Stadler tied for 25th with Mike Goodes. Stadler hasn't won on the Champions Tour since a five-win 2004 season.
"I'm still competitive, I still think I can play. But I need to be more consistent," Stadler said. "With that comes four years of not competing very well, and not being as confident as I used to be. I have to work that back, I can't just get it overnight by hitting a couple of good shots."
Stadler, plagued by several years of health issues, said he isn't healthy enough to walk courses every day. But flat courses help, and Savannah fits that bill.
Kevin Na didn't have to wait eight years like Craig Stadler did.
On Monday, just 362 days removed from the ignominious 16 he made at the ninth hole of TPC San Antonio in the first round of the Valero Texas Open, Na returned to the scene of the "crime" -- armed with a chain saw.
Na's troubles that day started when he had to take an unplayable lie off the tee. He also whiffed a shot, took five from the forest and incurred a two-stroke penalty when the ball hit a tree and came back and hit him.
To add insult to injury, Na had to watch the video replay before signing his scorecard to make sure his count was correct. He thought he'd made 15 but it was actually a stroke higher, contributing to an 80 and missed cut.
The return visit was made because Na is hosting next week's edition of "Inside the PGA TOUR."
"We were trying to come up with some creative and fun ideas to commemorate my performance on 9 last year and this seemed like a fun way to go back," Na told USA Today. "It was a lot of fun, that chainsaw had a pretty good kick to it."
Stadler's mishap came at Torrey Pines during the third round of the 1987 Shearson Lehman Brothers-Andy Williams San Diego Open. His tee shot on the 14th hole at Torrey Pines South had landed by a tree and he had to stand on his knees to get the ball under a low-hanging branch.
Before he hit the ball, though, Stadler placed a towel on the damp ground to protect his pants. He finished the round in second place but was disqualified after TV viewers called to protest that Stadler had improved his stance with the towel.
Since he did not assess himself a two-stroke penalty before signing his card, Stadler was disqualified. Eight years later, with the tree dying, tournament officials asked Stadler if he wanted to come cut it down – and like Na, he accepted.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The marquee threesome at the Par 3 Contest has just teed off and between them, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have 13 Masters titles.
Of the Big Three, Nicklaus has the most recent win in the season’s first major -- and that came 25 years ago when he was 46 years old. In fact, he’s playing the Par 3 Contest with a replica of the oversize MacGregor Response ZT putter he used in 1986.
* Kevin Streelman, who is playing in his first Masters, gave his caddie, Michael Christensen, the afternoon off. He will have his father on the bag at the Par 3 Contest instead.
* And so far, there’s only been on ace at the Par 3 and that came on the 130-yard first hole by Craig Stadler. It was the 73rd hole-in-one in the competition, which began in 1960.
* And don’t look now – but Luke Donald, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, is leading the Par 3 after shooting 5 under.
The Englishman is one of the pre-tournament favorites. So maybe Donald can buck the trend that no Par 3 winner has gone on to win the Masters in the same year.
At least the winner walks away with a crystal bowl.