Originally created 05/22/01

Irwin likes first impression of Ridgewood



PARAMUS, N.J. -- Hale Irwin was a little surprised Monday when the locker room attendant at the Ridgewood Country Club told him he had been there about 15 years ago.

Irwin didn't recall the visit.

In some ways it's not surprising. When you're a professional golfer you play at a lot of courses and one or two might slip your mind.

That's not happening on Irwin's visit to Ridgewood this week. He is trying learn everything he can about the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course, which will be the site of the 62nd PGA Seniors' Championship, starting Thursday.

Irwin, who finished in a four-way tie for second behind winner Doug Tewell in last year's tournament, played 10 holes Monday and was excited.

"Beautiful, it looks to be a wonderful golf course," Irwin said. "I think we are going to see some errant drives. The greens were fairly firm today. All in all, it has all the feelings and makings of a real major championship. I'm delighted we're here."

It's definitely a change. It marks the first time the PGA had moved the championship out of Florida since 1940. It had been played at the PGA National Golf Club of Palm Beach Gardens since 1982.

Irwin, who has won two regular Senior PGA Tour events plus the Senior Skins Game this year, said the tree-lined course, high rough and the distance of some holes will make hitting the ball straight a must.

"I think placement seems to be the order of the day," Irwin said, noting the two long par-3s will tax the field.

Irwin doesn't mind that, though. He would rather play tougher courses and thinks the fans want to see the players challenged.

"Where do most people sit when they watch a tournament, on a bland hole or one with water, one with trouble? You tell me," Irwin said.

Even his own approach changes on the better courses, Irwin said.

"I find the bigger the tournament, the bigger the challenge, the more intent I get of getting prepared for it," Irwin said. "I could play this course once or twice and probably take in as much as if I played another course 12 times, because I just pay more attention."

The last time Ridgewood was used for a major tournament was in 1990 when it was the site of the 1990 U.S. Senior Open. Lee Trevino's 13-under total beat Jack Nicklaus by two strokes for that title.

Bob Charles, who played in that Senior Open, called Ridgewood an old traditional course. There are no houses on the course and the emphasis is on making different types of shots.

"I guess for me this will be a reorientation," Charles said before teeing off on a practice round. "I was here 11 years ago. I don't remember the course at all. Hopefully, it will all come back to me the first time I play it."

While most of the players in the field don't have much knowledge of the course now, they will by Thursday.

"We're all pros," Charles said. "We've all had 20, 30 or 40 years experience behind us. We should know how to adjust."

"We'll all be playing it for the second or third time come Thursday," Allen Doyle added. "So we will all be on an even keel."