SAN FRANCISCO - It wasn't a vintage year for Tom Kite on the Champions Tour, but at age 60, about five weeks from turning 61, Kite knows the definition of vintage is bound to change a little bit.
Still, Kite and 61-year-old Tom Watson are the only sixtysomethings in the elite 30-man field at the Schwab Cup Championship. Not bad, and neither was Kite's opening-round 67 at Harding Park, which left him in T-5, only three strokes behind John Cook.
"Any time you get back here [in this tournament] it's pretty nice," Kite said. "It's really nice if you're over 60. Once you get out on this tour you start to realize your days are numbered. After you've been on the tour for 10 or 11 years, you realize they're really are numbered."
Kite, who didn't win in 2010 but finished 23rd on the money list despite having major shoulder surgery last fall, is playing in his 11th straight season-ending event for the top 30 on the money list, which ties him with Jim Dent and Gil Morgan and he trails only Hale Irwin, who competed in it 13 consecutive times.
"I see all the guys that are in their late-50s and 60s - at times they can still play," Kite said. "It's just a question of being able to do it a little bit more often like we used to be able to. We used to be able to string weeks and weeks, and sometimes months, together of really good golf. Now, you're kind of hoping for one good week, then make a couple of OK weeks, and another good week. It doesn't come as often."
The good weeks, however infrequent, keep Kite in the arena.
"When you're going through one of those periods when you're not playing well, you say, 'Golly, am I done? Am I finished?'" Kite said. "But then, along about the time you're ready to start packing it up, then all of a sudden you have a good week, and you have a chance [to win]."
This tournament has at least started like it might be one of those, when the aging conundrum recedes. "You just don't string as many good [shots] together," Kite said. "The good ones are still as good; the bad ones are about the same. There's just more bad ones than there used to be."
-- Bill Fields