By John Kim, PGA.com Coordinating Producer
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Hale Irwin wasn't impressed that at age 66 (and a week shy of 67), his third-place finish on Sunday at the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid -- -- after shooting a final-round 68 -- meant he was now the oldest player to finish in the top five in a major championship.
"Statistics … I don't pay attention to statistics," he stated. Of course, the player he surpassed was none other than himself, when he finished fourth at the 2011 Senior PGA Championship.
But Irwin’s nonchalance is probably more a testament to his lofty expectations at the majors more than a lack of interest in his place in history. Irwin's game is tailored for the toughest tests and the exacting nature that the courses demand, something he anticipated and was ready for. Well, mostly ready for.
"I think I played reasonably well," Irwin said in a matter-of-fact manner after his Sunday round. "You got the tale of the tee to green and you got the tale of the greens. Well, today and this week really it was the tale of how I got to the greens -- very good -- and how I putted the greens -- was very poor."
With the most favorable scoring conditions and hole locations all week on Sunday, Irwin lamented some missed putts that prevented him from pulling off what might have been the largest final-round comeback in Senior PGA Championship history.
"I just putted so poorly for the week," he claimed, "I'm not going to lay that off on putting alone, but these are difficult greens to putt. I just didn't strike the putts very well."
After an opening round even-par 71, he shot three scores in the 60s (66-69-68). And though those scores were good enough to beat all but two of the best senior players in the world, Irwin sees an opportunity for improvement.
“I’ve got some adjustments to make,” he stated. “I’ve got some ideas in mind.”
So can Irwin continue his success in the majors, including potentially next year when he'll be a week shy of 68, as the Senior PGA Championship moves to Bellerive Country Club?
The last time he was there was for the 2004 U.S. Senior Open, an event he lost in a playoff to Peter Jacobsen. A familiar major championship course with a game that never seems to age just might be a formula to take the leap from a top-five fixture to a return to the winner's circle.