BLAINE, Minn. -- Hale Irwin will try to continue his
dominance at the 3M Championship that opens Friday while looking
for his first tour win in five months.
The three-day, 54-hole event at the TPC of the Twin Cities in
Blaine will see 78 senior tour players chasing a winner's payoff of
$262,500 of the $1.75 million purse.
Arnold Palmer -- one of the course designers at this TPC layout --
will probably play his final 3M tournament after six appearances.
While making no official announcement about his future, Palmer
continues to cut back on his schedule. Palmer has played in just
four of the first 25 official events on the 2002 senior tour.
Eleven of the top 12, and 22 of the top 25 players, on the 2002
money list are competing. The name atop the list, Irwin, is
especially familiar in Minnesota.
Irwin has finished in the top three in each of the last five
years of the event. He won in 1997 and 1999; took second in 1998;
and tied for third in 1996 and 2001. He's the tournament's all-time
money leader with just under $765,000 collected in six years.
"This event ranks in the top three or four for me as far as
senior events go,'' Irwin said. "There's great community and fan
support, a strong sponsor and great marketing.''
A top-two finish this weekend would let Irwin surpass the $2
million mark in senior tour earnings for the sixth consecutive
season. His season total of $1,861,706 includes two victories and
But Irwin has other incentives. At last year's 3M, he led on the
final day before closing with a 74 and losing by three strokes to
And Irwin's last win came five months ago at the Toshiba Senior
Classic. In two of the last three weekends he was denied victories
after losing two-man playoffs -- to Bob Gilder on the first extra
hole at the SBC Senior Open July 21, and to Hubert Green on the
seventh extra hole at the Lightpath Long Island Classic last
"I was disappointed last week,'' Irwin said. "But I give
Hubert (Green) all the credit in the world. My putting was a major
disappointment, but I hit the ball well.''
Lietzke's 2001 3M win was the first of his four victories in 13
months on the Senior PGA Tour. He'll try to become the first
defending champion to win thus far in 2002.
"I've been out here almost a year now, and I consider this to
be the best course we play,'' Lietzke said. "I think it has the
feel of a major championship.''