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Duel in the Sun
Rick Lipsey
April 20, 1998
The best gunfight in golf is Hale Irwin versus Gil Morgan
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April 20, 1998

Duel In The Sun

The best gunfight in golf is Hale Irwin versus Gil Morgan

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VICTORIES

MAJORS

TOP 10s

EARNINGS

PCT. OF TOTAL PURSE

Gil Morgan '97-98

9

2

24

$2,835,142

5.61%

Hale Irwin '97-98

10

1

23

$2,814,014

5.57%

Arnold Palmer'63-64

9

1

32

$241,433

5.33%

Jack Nicklaus '63-64

9

2

34

$213,325

4.71%

A. Sorenstam '96-97

9

1

30

$2,045,100

3.60%

Karrie Webb '96-97

7

0

36

$1,989,606

3.50%

Ali-Frazier. Yanks-Red Sox. Cindy Crawford—Tyra Banks. Great rivalries have a beauty all their own. For Hale Irwin (above, left) and Gil Morgan (above, right), the beauty of Senior golf is that a 38-event tour for 78-man fields has turned into something approaching match play. Today, golf's fiercest rivalry isn't between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, or between Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. It's the senior circuit's main event, the two-man game between former football player Irwin and licensed optometrist Morgan.

The golf duels that rival Irwin-Morgan are Jack Nicklaus versus Arnold Palmer in the early 1960s and Sorenstam versus Webb in 1996 and '97 The chart below compares the three matchups, with Nicklaus-Palmer data from the only two-year stretch in which they topped the money list together (it was Arnie-Jack in 1963, Jack-Arnie in '64) and Sorenstam-Webb numbers from the past two full LPGA campaigns. Irwin and Morgan's stats date from 1997, which they began with only five Senior titles between them.

Since then, Irwin and Morgan have won 19 of 46 Senior tour events. Irwin has 10 wins in that span, while Morgan has nine. (The next-best senior, David Graham, has four.) More recent stats, however, show the balance shifting toward golf's favorite eye doctor. This year Irwin leads seniors in seven categories, including birdies (5.06 per round), but Morgan ranks first in 11, most importantly in money ($674,580). Morgan fans can boast that their man averages 279.4 yards off the tee, nearly 20 yards more than Irwin, and leads the all-around ranking as well. Irwinites can cite Hale's nine Senior victories and alltime, any-tour mark of $2,343,364 in winnings last year, in addition to his current first-place rank in scoring. His 68.94 average is almost a half stroke better than the tour's second-best mark, Morgan's 69.36.

Who's tops? Morgan's 3-1 lead in wins this season and the fact that he has finished ahead of Irwin in 15 of the 24 tournaments both men have entered in the past two years suggest that there's a new world order on the elder tour. Hale, the conquering hero, is ousted. All hail the Doc.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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