By Bob Denney, PGA of America
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Will we all hail Hale once again?
Hale Irwin, the 36-hole leader at the 65th Senior PGA Championship, is bidding to win his fourth Senior PGA Championship title and first Senior PGA crown since 1998. Since the advent of the Champions Tour, only Jack Nicklaus has won a major championship four times (The Tradition -- 1990,1991, 1995, 1996).
Legendary Sam Snead owns the most Senior PGA Championship titles, winning six times between 1964-1973, but seven years before the birth of the Champions Tour.
Just one week shy of his 59th birthday, Irwin could become the oldest player ever to win a major on the Champions Tour and oldest to win a senior major since 61-year-old Pete Cooper claimed the Senior PGA title in 1976.
A winner earlier this year at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, Irwin is also trying to win his 40th career title on the Champions Tour and is shooting for the seventh senior major championship of his career.
Nicklaus has won the most majors on the Champions Tour with eight titles. A Senior PGA Championship victory would also give Irwin multiple wins in a season for a record 10th straight year.
SUBDUING PAR: Fifteen players were under par after two rounds of play at Valhalla compared to 10 players last year at Aronimink. Two years ago at Firestone, only four players were under par after 36 holes.
LUCKY SEVEN: For the second straight year, 7-over-par was the cutline. This year at Valhalla, 75 players from a starting field of 156 professionals made the cut at 7-over 149. Last year at Aronimink, 71 players made the cut at 7-over 147. Two years ago at Firestone, 80 players made the cut at 9-over-par 149.
AT THE HALF: Since 1958, when the Senior PGA Championship format was changed to 72 holes, there have been 23 players who have shared or led alone after 36 holes and went on to win. Only once in the last five years has the leader at the halfway mark of this Championship emerged victorious. In 2000, Doug Tewell led by one stroke over Dana Quigley after 36 holes and went on to win the rain-shortened 54-hole event by seven shots.
FORMER AMATEUR CHAMPION SHINES: John Harris, the 1993 U.S. Amateur champion, had the lowest second-round score. Harris' 4-under 67 vaulted him from a tie for 12th into a tie for second with Wayne Levi. David Eger improved his first-round score by 10 strokes with a 3-under 68 Saturday. Eger's round vaulted him from T109 into a tie for 40th. David Russell from England carded a 69 after posting an 84 Friday, but missed the cut. Paul Parajeckas, a club professional from the Boston area, also improved his score by 10 strokes after carding an 81 in the opening round. He also missed the cut.
BOGEY FREE: Vicente Fernandez from Argentina was the only player in the field not to make a bogey in Round 2. Fernandez had a pair of birdies and 16 pars for a 2-under 69.
AND THEN THERE WERE TEN: Ten of the 37 PGA senior club professionals in the field made the 36-hole cut. Lonnie Nielsen of Orchard Park, N.Y. and Roy Vucinich of Moon Township, Pa., led the way with two-round totals of 2-over-par 144. Nielsen is a full-time Champions Tour player since January, but he earned his way into the Championship by finishing third in the 2003 Callaway Golf PGA Senior Club Professional Championship.
INTERNATIONAL FORUM: The Championship featured a record 34 international players from 14 countries. After 36 holes, players from six different countries were among the top 20. In addition to the 17 Americans are Dave Barr (T4) from Canada, Mark James (T8) from England, Mark McNulty (T12) from Ireland, Graham Marsh (T16) from Australia and Vicente Fernandez (T20) from Argentina.
HOW TOUGH WAS IT OUT THERE?: The par-71 Valhalla layout played to a stroke average of 74.676 (+3.676) in Round 2. Last year's second-round scoring average at the par-70 Aronimink Golf Club was 73.490 (+3.490). The par-4 12th hole yielded just five birdies and played as the most difficult with a stroke average of 4.479.
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