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2014 U.S. Senior Open: A look at the golfers who call Oak Tree National their home course

When Oak Tree National hosts the 2014 U.S. Senior Open, four players from the home course are expected to play. All four have intriguing storylines.
by Michael Baldwin Published: June 15, 2013
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photo - Bob Tway tees off on the sixth hole during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament in Carmel, Ind., Friday, July 31, 2009. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: INMC106
Bob Tway tees off on the sixth hole during the second round of the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament in Carmel, Ind., Friday, July 31, 2009. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: INMC106

During his 24 years on the PGA Tour, Morgan won seven events between 1977 and 1990. He consistently finished in the top five. His most prestigious win was the 1978 World Series of Golf. He also played on the 1979 and 1983 Ryder Cup teams.

But it was the senior tour where he became a threat to win any tournament he entered in his first few years after turning 50.

Morgan's first senior tour win was in 1996 when he edged Jim Colbert and Chi-Chi Rodriguez by one stroke at the Ralph's Senior Classic. He won six Champions Tour events the following year and won six more in 1998.

It's been six years since his last win at the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, but he still averages 18 tournaments a year.

Morgan plays Oak Tree National less than the other three, about a dozen rounds a year. But it is his home course, which he said will give all four players an advantage.

“You can sleep in your own bed,” Morgan said. “For me, it will only be five minutes to the club. That will be really nice.”

Morgan hasn't finished in the top 30 in money earnings since he finished 13th with $1.17 million six years ago at age 60.

One highlight from his 40 years on the two tours was when he became the first player to reach 10-under par in an U.S. Open. Morgan got as low as 12-under on Saturday in 1992 at Pebble Beach. In windy conditions, he fell out of contention on Sunday with a final-round 81.

The bottom line number is Morgan has won 40 pro tournaments in four decades.

“Coming from a small community, not having big-time golf experience until I got to the (PGA) Tour, I feel real fortunate,” Morgan said. “I was able to play pretty well on the regular tour and then got to a higher level on the Champions Tour. To make a living at it has been such a blessing.”

Willie Wood

Willie Wood's long-awaited win — breaking a 16-year drought — made a lot of people smile.

Overcoming a wide range of circumstances throughout his career on and off the course, Wood is the type of player fans pull for.

Wood's first wife, Holly, died of bone cancer in 1989. He went through two divorces. He had shoulder surgery on a torn labrum the year he turned 50.

But on Aug. 19 last year, things began to turn around. That was the day Wood won the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y. A month later Wood won the Pacific Links championship in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Because he often had to qualify last season, Wood played in only half the senior events. He still finished 15th in money earnings ($1.01 million).

Wood, 52, is exempt this year. For the first time in a long time, Wood can concentrate on playing golf rather than qualifying.

One of the most celebrated junior golfers ever, Wood endured several major hurdles to get his game back to a point where he can compete for titles.

Wood's pre-pro career is legendary. He won the 1977 U.S. Junior Amateur and was named the 1978 AJGA Player of the Year. At Oklahoma State, Wood was the national player of the year as a junior, the year he won a school-record four events.

But when Wood turned pro, he never gained momentum. He logged some time on the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) tour.

After years of trying to remain competitive, Wood savored the win in Endicott. In his 16th Champions Tour event, Wood ended a 16-year victory drought. His last win had come at the 1996 Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in Madison, Miss.

“Last year was really terrific. I got it going. It stayed with me. Everything just fell into place,” Wood said. “It's a shame the season had to end and I had to take three months off of not competing.”

Wood's game is a better fit for the Champions Tour. At 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, his best asset is his short game. From 150 yards in, Wood is a contender because he can consistently rely on his wedge and putter. Shorter holes have translated into lower scores.

Wood, 49th on the Champions Tour money list ($113,502), feels good about his game. This summer he hopes to regain some of last year's momentum.

“I hit the ball pretty well at the Senior PGA,” Wood said. “I hope it carries over to this summer. I'd really like to get hot again.”

Of all four Oak Tree players, Wood is the only one who didn't play in the PGA 25 years ago.

“The fact that I didn't get to play in '88 this (2014 Senior Open) is very important to me,” Wood said. “It will be the only time I've played a championship on my home course.”

by Michael Baldwin
Redhawks, Barons, MLB, NFL Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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