Tom Kite improved 44 spots on the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard with his stellar 5-under 67 Saturday at the Ocean Course. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tom Kite improved 44 spots on the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard with his stellar 5-under 67 Saturday at the Ocean Course. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kite rekindles holiday magic with tournament-best 67

Three of Tom Kite's last four wins on the PGA TOUR came on holidays. That this is Memorial Day weekend was not lost on the Champions Tour veteran, who responded with a tournament-best 67 Saturday at the Ocean Course.

By Lauren Deason, Editorial Coordinator

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- During a bright and sunny Memorial Day weekend, Texan Tom Kite moved his way up the leaderboard on Moving Day at the Senior PGA Championship. With a tournament-best 5-under 67 on Saturday, Kite erased the disappointment of shooting 75-76 in the first two rounds and improved to 2-over for the week.

The move wasn't really surprising, though, since Kite seems to have luck around holidays.

In fact, three of Kite's last four victories on the PGA TOUR came on a major calendar milestone. The 19-time TOUR winner had two extra-big days in 1992, first getting a win on Mother's Day at the BellSouth Classic and then earning a memorable major title at the U.S. Open on Father's Day.

To make it three sweet wins in a row, he clinched the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on Valentine's Day in 1993. But don't strike up the band and wave the Kite victory flags just yet, since he's not expecting a Memorial Day Eve win despite propelling 44 spots up the leaderboard in the third round.

"Chances are, I probably (won't win). Eduardo (Romero) and a number of those guys are playing very well right now. And I would anticipate that they would continue to do that," said Kite.

"We'll have to wait and see. I don't care whether you shoot a 53, if you bogey the last hole you come away with a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth."

Kite had a blemish-free round going -- even adding an eagle to the card at No. 11 -- until that costly bogey at the final hole. Considering his errant tee shot landed on a sandy, trampled-down path, managing to get the near-buried ball in the hole with just one extra shot was actually a relief. 

"The golf course is hard. And you just don't have to slip up much at all," Kite said. "We saw it happen to a number of players -- it happened to me, it happened to (Ben) Crenshaw ... certainly a large majority of the field has hit some shots that probably are less-than-stellar shots but they don't come away with bogeys, you come away with double, triple or worse in a lot of cases."

After all, the way the course is playing this week, one bad hole can cause a whole slew of problems and separate the contenders from the thanks-for-comings.

"Oh, it will go horribly wrong for some," said Kite. "You're unbelievably rewarded for being able to negotiate and get around that golf course, maneuver around that golf course and not have any disasters happen."

Kite thinks the players prefer to play on such a venue where the best rise to the top. "When you look at the leaderboard, those are the names you want up there. You want to see Eduardo (Romero), you want to see Nick Price, you want to see Crenshaw, you want to see the top players playing well in a tournament like this."

The "names" at the head of the tournament this week include several well-known fan favorites, like Price, Mark O'Meara, Romero, Craig Stadler and Jay Haas. Too many to name, which Kite says is a regular occurrence on the over-50 tour.

"If you want to follow the name players that you know, that you have heard of, [the Champions Tour] is where you come to watch. I mean this field, you go down the list of guys that are playing here and it's a very impressive lineup of guys that have great resumes."

Sure they might be a little past their prime, but Kite says the caliber of golf is still top-notch.

"Can they still play? You're darn right," he said. "Are they fun to watch and will they acknowledge a crowd when they make a putt, will they smile every now and then? Darn right. I think the Champions Tour is on an upswing and I think that the upswing is going to last quite a while. The excitement out here is growing with every day."

Kite's already added to the excitement, finishing runner-up to some of the biggest contenders on Tour in three tournaments in 2007. He tied for second in the first two tournaments of the year -- the MasterCard Championship and the Turtle Bay Championship in Hawaii. Kite also missed a heartbreaking 5-footer on the first hole of a playoff at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.

"I keep catching buzz saws, the guys that I've finished second to this year," Kite said. "Hale Irwin blew everybody away (at the MasterCard Championship), Fred Funk blew everybody away at Turtle Bay, and then I lost in a playoff to Jay Haas. So it's not like it's chopped liver that I've been losing to. Those guys are pretty good players."

As is Kite, who is pleased with his play despite not gaining a 10th Champions Tour win yet. The 58-year-old World Gall Hall of Fame member is fifth in both Charles Schwab Cup points and on the 2007 money list, proving he still can hang in there with the best of them.

"I did not play well the first two rounds this week and it's been disappointing because I came in here having three straight top-five finishes and was very optimistic about my chances," he said. "And to play as poorly as I did the first two days, especially the back nine yesterday, is very disappointing."

Though the course "beats the living daylights out of you," Kite says it is a fantastic venue and players have nothing but good things to say. It'd make it all the sweeter to win a major at a tough course with a stellar field.

And it would make for an especially memorable Memorial Day.

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