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Career in transition

Hale Irwin would love to win a remarkable fifth Senior PGA Championship this week before he turns 66 years old next week. His peak career years are behind him, but he still hits enough good shots to keep himself hungry.

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Even as he nears his 66th birthday, Hale Irwin says he still enjoys competing against the younger players on the Champions Tour. (Getty Images)

By Rusty Miller, Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Hale Irwin won 20 times on the PGA Tour, including U.S. Opens in 1974, 1979 and 1990. He is also one of the most decorated Champions Tour players ever, with 45 wins.

Despite his glittering career, Irwin hasn’t won on the over-50 circuit since 2007. Next week he will turn 66 years old.

He realizes that the days are long since over when he was one of the most feared players at any major championship.

“There is going to be an end,” Irwin said Wednesday, the day before beginning pursuit of his fifth Senior PGA Championship. “Whether it’s a tapering off or whether it’s the cliff, I don’t know. But I do know that I still enjoy the competition. I still like to push myself. I still enjoy going out and playing against the young guys as they come on the tour.”

There are more aches and pains now, of course. Aspects of his game, particularly off the tee and around the green, are reflecting his age.

He believes he can still be a factor.

“People ask me, ‘Is it fun?”’ Irwin said. “Well, it’s not fun to play poorly. But I hit enough good shots along the way to know I can do this. It’s a transition time. I understand that.”