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Hale Irwin watched young Robert Streb rip a shot around the corner on the dogleg par-5 15th hole at The Patriot using a 3-wood to set up a short approach to the green. "That was a 3-wood," Irwin marveled stepping off the tee. "That ought to be illegal."
Earlier, warming up on the range, Irwin talked about the slow, steady toll that time has extracted on the game of the man who once absolutely ruled the Champions Tour – along with Edmond’s Gil Morgan. Irwin won 44 events from 1995 to 2005. He has won once since.
"It’s just a steady drip, drip, drip on your forehead," Irwin said. "I was talking to Gil the other day and he was talking about making a swing change. I just want to be physically able to swing the way I know how."
Irwin will be at Oak Tree National in July for a run at the U.S. Senior Open. He won the U.S. Open three times, including the oldest ever to win the event at age 45, and captured the U.S. Senior Open twice, in 1998 and 2000.
His memories of Oak Tree National, however, are not as pleasant. He shot 3-over 287 at the 1988 PGA Championship to finish 15 shots behind Jeff Sluman. In the 2006 PGA Senior Championship, he tied for 23rd at 8-over.
"It’s going to be nice and cool, right?" Irwin said with a laugh. "And no wind."
Tom Lehman has no bad memories of Oak Tree National because he’s never played it. He was still battling his way off the mini-tours in 1988 and not yet 50 in 2006. With seven victories since joining the elder tour in 2007, he’ll be one of the favorites in July.
Oklahoma fans know that when Lehman gets hot, his ball striking can overwhelm a course and field. He tore up Southern Hills Country Club for four days in the fall of 2006 to win the Tour Championship going away.
Lehman and Corey Pavin are both regulars to support our military at the Patriot Cup and those two will also be doing a special clinic for the military on Tuesday July 8, which will be Military Appreciation Day at the U.S. Senior Open. Plans are still being finalized but include that all active, retired and reserve U.S. military members have free admission that day with the clinic in the afternoon. The Folds of Honor will be involved.
The 2014 Patriot Cup was eventually cut short by rain and lightning, but it was rocking while it lasted. Kid Rock and Dierks Bentley had a following to rival that of favorite adopted son Rickie Fowler and Major Dan Rooney. David Feherty kept the event lively and entertaining whether doing first-tee introductions or mid-fairway interviews. "Only a lion could find that ball," Feherty told one of the first contestants as his tee shot sailed into the woods. "As in, if you say you found it, you’re lyin."