Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Floyd and four other former Masters champions were playing their third major championship in three weeks. To assure network television coverage, the tour's schedule makers awkwardly sandwiched the Tradition and the PGA Seniors' around the Masters. Two senior majors in three weeks is a mistake, one that will be repeated in early summer because the U.S. Senior Open and the Ford Senior Players Championship are slotted just two weeks apart.
"The PGA ought to get smart," said Dave Stockton last week. "You don't want to follow the Tradition, and you sure as hell don't want to follow the Masters. If they can go to some other date, it wouldn't take Einstein to realize it would be good for the tournament."
The PGA of America is seriously considering such a move, but probably not until 1998. Jim Awtrey, the PGA's CEO, has discussed changing the dates with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Taking the Seniors' Championship on the road, away from its headquarters at PGA National, is also likely. "It is a major, but in South Florida it gets lost sometimes," Awtrey said. "You look up, and you have maybe 35,000 spectators for the week. That's not a major. That's not giving a major what it's due. In another market you might have 150,000."
Trevino, who lives nearby in Jupiter Island, agreed. "This is a big tournament, our oldest senior tournament," Trevino said. "But I think it's got to travel. I think if you played this tournament three weeks later and took it to middle America, you'd pack 'em in."
What gallery there was at PGA National saw championship conditions. Except for whatever course hosts the Senior Open, the Champion is the toughest layout the seniors play all year—and the scores reflected it. Stockton, the tour's leading money-winner in 1993-94 and winner of the 1995 GTE Suncoast Classic, made a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 15th hole in the second round on Friday and shot 77 to miss the cut. With a double bogey and a triple bogey, two-time Seniors' champion Arnold Palmer shot 86 the same day, his highest career round as a professional. "Believe it or not I thought I might have a good day," Palmer said. "It started bad and got worse."
This was also more like Bad Friday than Good Friday for Calvin Peete. Among the leaders after a first-round 68, Peete slid back into temporary obscurity with bogeys on four of the last eight holes to shoot 76. Peete closed with a 77 Sunday and ended up 26th at three-over 291. His finish wasn't totally unexpected, in spite of his promising start, even by Peete himself.
Peete has all but disappeared since winning 11 times on the PGA Tour in a five-year period from 1982 to '86, the most victories by any player during that time span. But in 1987, Peete's lower back gave out, and not long after, he and his wife, Christine, divorced. Knowing he would be eligible for the Senior tour when he turned 50 in 1993, Peete rested and tried to put his personal life back together. He remarried and celebrated the birth of his fifth child, daughter Aisha, who is now 17 months old.
"When Aisha was born, I thought, I've got to be competitive. I've got another mouth to feed," Peete said after last week's opening round. "I put four kids through college, and now I've got another one to put through college, so I've got to try and get as much out of this body as I possibly can."
His body wasn't in terrific shape. In 1991 he had suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, and he had opted against surgery. Instead, Peete followed the advice of his spiritual adviser, a pastor he met 15 years ago in Fort Myers, Fla., who suggested meditation. Peete fasted, prayed and meditated for days at a time. He claims the spiritual cleansing that resulted is the reason he's able to play golf again. He still has occasional spasms from a pinched nerve in his neck. "When I feel the nerve moving, I try to put pain against pain," says Peete, whose remedy is to karate chop himself in the back of the neck. "I look at my game right now and say I'm an accident going to happen."
As Peete started faltering on Friday afternoon, Nicklaus was ascending in away that seemed improbable after his uninspired opening 76. This was the fifth week in a row that Nicklaus had played; the last time he played five straight tournaments was in 1970, when he was 30 years old.