Bernhard Langer arrived at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine around 3:30 p.m. Monday, looking quite happy to have made it -- finally -- to the site of his dramatic chip-in-for-eagle victory last July.
Maybe it was relief.
When you've endured the kind of travel schedule most of the Champions Tour players have the last month or so, even winning at Langer's torrid pace can't make up for lost time.
Or is it gained time? Players have lost track.
Before this week's 3M Championship, the Champions Tour schedule featured back-to-back major tournaments: the Senior British Open in Scotland on July 22-25 and the U.S. Senior Open in Sammamish, Wash., which ended Sunday.
Langer won both, but criticized the schedule last week, calling the travel "terrible."
Many of his contemporaries in Blaine this week agree. "I was really looking forward to playing over there [in the Senior British Open], but there was no way I was going to come back eight time zones," Bobby Wadkins said. "It didn't bother Bernie, [but] I couldn't do both."
Travel comes with the territory of being a professional athlete. But this?
"My hat's off to the guys that did it, because it's hard," said Ben Crenshaw, who also skipped the Senior British Open. "Playing over in Britain, it takes a lot out of you no matter what. It's a lifestyle you have to get used to. And after 40 years of packing and unpacking, it gets a little old."
3M Championship tournament director Hollis Cavner didn't hold back Monday, ripping the decision to conduct back-to-back majors directly in front of his event. It's an underlying reason, Cavner said, that players such as Tom Lehman are currently beat up and not willing to play in the 3M. Lehman, a Minnesota native who was expected to be a gallery favorite this weekend, withdrew Monday, citing a knee injury.
Unlike regular Champions Tour events, where tournaments are three rounds and players can use motorized carts, major tournaments last four rounds and players must walk.
"We still have a great field, but we lost a couple of guys I want," Cavner said. "I want the best players in the world, and we didn't get Tom Watson, we didn't get Freddie [Couples], and those are two that bug me. And now Tom is out."
This is the third year in a row the Senior British and U.S. Senior Open have been played back-to-back. But it was the first time when the U.S. Senior Open was played on the West Coast (followed by the 3M).
Not everyone has minded the hectic schedule, or the $6.35 million these last three tour stops have been worth.
"Here's the thing," said Russ Cochran, who finished tied for third in Scotland and tied for 28th last weekend. "I'm not the type of player -- and certainly not a superstar -- where I can dictate anything. So if [we're] playing for a nice purse, I'm going to go there. I'll play anywhere, anytime."
Said Australian Peter Senior, a Champions Tour rookie who has 26 career victories, mostly overseas: "It was actually pretty funny last week. All of us who were over [in Scotland] were up at 6 in the morning and out on the range because nobody could sleep. It's been pretty tough, but I still feel pretty good."
The Champions Tour eases up from here -- three consecutive weeks in the Pacific time zone beginning Aug. 19 -- and further changes are planned. Next year it'll be England-Toledo-Blaine, but then the 2012 U.S. Senior Open moves to July 12-15. About time, say many.
"The USGA and [the Royal and Ancient] just haven't been on the same page," Wadkins said. "They've just been too stubborn to make a change."