Relying on smarts has led to four top-10 finishes in his first season on the Champions Tour.
Kirk Triplett admits his best days of golf are over.
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Triplett is now relying on guile and experience while playing on the Champions Tour.
"We realize that we're not better than what we were 20 years ago or 15 years ago," he said. "Now, we're just trying not to get so bad so fast. We're just trying to slow that process, make that gradual descent."
Since joining the Champions Tour after turning 50 in March, Triplett has shown no signs of that descent. He has finished in the top 10 four times in 10 outings and won the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in early July.
"Overall, I play a smarter, more even-keel game than I used to," he said.
This weekend, Triplett will attempt to continue his early success against veteran Champions Tour players such as Tom Lehman and Gary Hallberg as he tees off for the 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities.
"My first impressions of the tour is that it's highly competitive, especially on Sundays when you have a chance to win," Triplett said.
Lehman and Triplett have a history together. The two were teammates on the U.S. President's Cup team in 2000 and played together on tour for many years.
"If we competed for bragging rights he would be the one doing all the bragging," Triplett said. "It's been that way for a long, long time."
Triplett's transition from the PGA Tour has been smooth. He finished in the top 25 in eight of 10 events and ranks 16th or better in seven statistical categories.
That's relatively new to him.
"I was never one of the top players on the regular tour," Triplett said. "I knew my craft, played well and was very consistent. I just wasn't in contention very often. For me, a good finish was 15th place."
Hallberg, 54, has also found consistency on the tour. A three-time PGA Tour champion who won his first Champions tournament, he said settling in to a routine was key.
"I've changed my swing hundreds of times. I've worked with every teacher, everyone, on my swing. I've read all the books," Hallberg said. "I'm finally realizing that what I have is good enough. That's been a big thing for me."
Triplett noted a big difference between his career on the PGA Tour and embarking on his new journey through the Champions Tour. Success in earlier rounds of events has placed him in more pressure situations on Sundays. Since he finds himself in contention often, the pressure of playing well enough to crack the top 10 or even win the tournament increases.
"On this tour, I get that feeling of being nervous, breathing faster," he said. "I'm saying to myself, 'Don't blow it in the final rounds.'"
Triplett played 11 events and won one last year on the developmental Web.com (formerly the Hogan, Nike and Nationwide) Tour to prepare for turning 50 and qualifying for Champions events. He is one of six men -- Olin Browne, Ron Streck, Keith Fergus, Lehman and Hallberg are the others -- who have won on the PGA, Champions and developmental tours.
"For me, I could have stayed at home and not done too much," he said. "But I really felt that if I wanted to come out here prepared and ready to go, I needed to play on that Web.com Tour to continue working on my game."
Both Triplett and Hallberg feel confident in their progression over the years. There's been less tinkering, just working to improve how they play now.
"I don't think I have any glaring weaknesses any more," Triplett said.
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