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Monday, May 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Meehan: Kirk Triplett consistent force on Champions Tour

Kirk Triplett looks to the first fairway during the pro-am for the Champions Tour's Encompass Championship golf tournament July 9, 2015, in Glenview, Ill. Triplett has become a consistent presence on the Champions Tour. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)
Kirk Triplett looks to the first fairway during the pro-am for the Champions Tour's Encompass Championship golf tournament July 9, 2015, in Glenview, Ill. Triplett has become a consistent presence on the Champions Tour. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Kirk Triplett is putting together another Kirk Triplett-type of season.

This is his fifth year on the Champions Tour and he’s currently No. 9 in the Schwab Cup standings. His best season came in 2014 with a two wins and the sixth spot on the money list at nearly $1.5 million.

His worst season on the Champions money list: 23rd with $787,296 in 2015. His worst Schwab Cup ranking: 20th as a “rookie” in 2012.

So, his worst is pretty darn good. And that’s pretty hard to do in golf, which has an undefeated record of humbling anyone who has ever picked up a club.

Triplett isn’t immune to golf’s ups and downs, but his approach and thought process seems to smooth out the rollercoaster ride. We’ve almost come to expect this from Triplett, who was born in Moses Lake and grew up in Pullman.

Golfers tend to be tinkerers. I recall writing about a great amateur player who had a collection of 70 putters. We change clubs. We change balls. We take lessons, tweak grips, modify stances and adjust swings in the endless pursuit of shaving another stroke off the scorecard. Sometimes it even works.

Triplett tinkers, just on his terms.

“Through the years, I’ve really tried to do my experimenting at the right time, which to me is the offseason or if you put yourself in position on the money list where you have a little more freedom,” he said. “I have avoided some temptations and sort of stuck to my game. I think that’s helped my long-term success.

“Your swing is kind of your swing. If you go trying to reinvent it, unless you’re really committed and hitting a lot of balls, it’s easy to go backward. My philosophy has always been get better at what I do.”

Triplett has a sense of what works for him. Shot to shot, tournament to tournament, season to season, he’s a steady, consistent force on Champions Tour.

He mentioned two stories during a recent phone interview that demonstrate why his game has staying power.

Triplett recalled his son, Sam, who plays at Northwestern, bringing home “Every Shot Counts,” an analytics-driven book authored by a Columbia professor.

“It’s an examination of every stat on the tour and I’m in there in a few different places,” Triplett said. “I’m high up in the stats from the distance of 60-to-100 yards and I’m terrible from 20-to-60 yards. I’m never going to practice that distance. It’s a distance I can usually avoid. There are players who actually do better from that distance than 60-to-100 but the point I’m trying to make is I know my game, and for me that’s not trying to push it up as close to the green as possible.

“I still have to avoid the temptation. I still have to play to my map on a golf course.”

Rewind to late June and the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. With son Sam caddying, Triplett came from behind to win, his fifth Champions victory to go with three on the PGA Tour and one on the Web.com Tour.

Triplett made four straight birdies on the back nine. He hit sand wedge to 1 foot on 13, pitching wedges to 10 feet on 14 and 8 feet on 15 and converted an up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 16th.

“No. 15 is a drivable par 4,” Triplett said. “I can drive to the corner but it leaves you that 50-yard pitch. I hit hybrid, then hit it to 8 feet. Less risk off the tee and I left a shot I’m more comfortable with. I never considered hitting a driver.”

Leader Bart Bryant, playing behind Triplett, also tried to stay true to his game but he triple bogeyed 15 after an errant drive.

“My driver, that’s my bread and butter,” Bryant said in an AP article. “That’s how I made a living playing the Tour. And it kind of let me down this week.”

The 54-year-old Triplett, who went on a family rafting trip instead of playing in the Senior British Open, is taking steps he hopes will prolong his career.

“I just sat down after the win – it gives you a little freedom to look farther ahead – and I said, ‘What do I want to do?’ ” he said. “I decided one of my favorite things is to be out hitting balls, practicing and preparing. I have to figure out a way to keep doing that, keep healthy and scheduling right so I’m always interested in playing.”

Sounds like he already has.

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