My Five: Best Champions Tour players

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My Five: Best Champions Tour players

November 07, 2010

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Hale IrwinThe best by a mile. His 45 career victories are 16 more than anyone else. As a senior, he remained the ultra-competitive grinder who won three U.S. Opens, but with the need for length reduced, the completeness of the rest of his game shone. Raymond Floyd said that he never saw a better putter in his life than Irwin after age 50. Irwin won a recording-tying nine times in 1997, and seven times the next year. He also won seven Champions Tour majors, including the 1997 PGA Seniors by 12 strokes. Irwin went 11 straight seasons with multiple victories, five more than anyone else. Although injuries have taken their toll, he's won three tournaments since turning 60.

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Lee TrevinoThe first great player to truly point to the Senior Tour, Trevino delivered with domination. In his first full season in 1990, Trevino won seven times and was the leading money winner in all of golf. As imaginative and solid a ball striker as ever lived, Trevino's rounds in his early years on the Senior Tour were a clinic in ball control. His 29 career victories are second best behind Irwin, and he won four majors, the most memorable coming when he beat Jack Nicklaus down the stretch of the 1990 U.S. Senior Open at Ridgewood. Like many of his verbal contributions to the game, Trevino's original "flat belly/round belly" distinction between regular tour and Champions Tour players has stuck.

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Gary PlayerIn his own mind, Player was still chasing Jack Nicklaus' career major record when he turned 50 in 1985, and only needed nine more to catch him. He got them, counting the three Senior British Opens he won in 1988, 1990 and 1997, which the PGA Tour didn't until 2003, but certainly should (Nicklaus, who doesn't count senior majors in his career total, would on to win eight of them himself). Regardless, the youthful Player kept his zest, determination, fitness and always underrated skill into his 60s. He won a total of 22 times on the Champions Tour, despite never playing a full schedule. Mainly, he excelled in the big ones.

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Bernhard LangerBased on having just won an unprecedented third straight money title (and likely third straight Player of the Year) at a time when the Champions Tour is deeper than ever, Langer gets an early call. He does so with a game that is even less prone to mistakes than it was on the regular tour, and in all other ways seems unchanged. Born the same year -- 1957 -- as fellow multiple major winners Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price, and Mark O'Meara, it is Langer who has retained his desire and skill the longest. After posting eight-stroke margins in two of his early wins, Langer already has 13 victories, including two majors. At 53, with his youthful physique, ultra-steady style of play and quietly relentless drive, there is plenty of time for more.

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Miller BarberOne of the Senior Tour's first dominators, Barber ended up compiling 24 career victories. He also won five majors, including the U.S. Senior Open in 1982, 1984 and 1985. With a Jim Furyk-like swing that achieved a flawless impact position, the strongly-built Barber retained his length and reliable ball striking. And because he was more relaxed on the 50-and over circuit than he had been while winning 11 times on the PGA Tour, he putted better. He edges out Gil Morgan, who had one more victory, but one less major.

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