U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

The Loop

Change Could Be A Good Thing

August 20, 2007

SUNRIVER, Ore. -- You have to give Mark McNulty a lot of credit for how he won the Jeld-Wen Tradition Sunday. When you birdie four of the first seven holes in the final round to take control, that's pretty strong, especially when you haven't lurked on any leader boards all season. McNulty, whose sunglasses and heavy coating of zinc oxide on his lips liken him to a middle-aged lifeguard who has wandered off the beach, is a tidy player and softspoken, classy fellow.

One man's gain, however, was one tournament's loss, as far as the drama quotient was concerned in its first playing at Crosswater Club at Sunriver Resort. The Tradition has had some interesting finishes in its lifetime -- from its Jack Nicklaus-dominated early years in Arizona to the Loren Roberts-Dana Quigley playoff two years ago outside Portland -- but this wasn't one of them.

McNulty's strong final-round start was too much for anybody to overcome, from unheralded David Edwards, who held on to finish second, to consistent senior performer D.A. Weibring, who took third place, or Tom Watson, who gave the event some star power but faded to a closing 74 and T-6. You can't blame McNulty, who would've won by seven if not for a meaningless double-bogey on the 72nd hole, but the back nine on Sunday was a snooze.

The Tradition is one of the senior "majors," although it doesn't really feel like one. A good tournament, and good fun for spectators and corporate clients who come out on site? Sure, like most of the stops on the Champions Tour, it is. The event seemed to have a bit of traction in its first year in central Oregon, with somewhat larger galleries. But as in Arizona, once Nicklaus aged out, and on the Oregon coast, the Tradition pretty much feels like a regular tournament, as does the Senior Players Championship, which will round out the slate of senior majors this fall at a new site, Baltimore CC, under the sponsorship of Constellation Energy.

Why not enliven one of these events by switching the format to match play? Maybe you would end up with two journeymen in the final, but you could get the two best seniors squaring off. It's worthy taking a shot, because it would be different. Indications are that the 2008 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf will revert to the team format that heralded the start of the senior tour, a move that makes so much common sense that it is hard to believe it took so long for it to happen. A match-play Tradition ought to be similarly considered.

--Bill Fields