The Nationwide and Champions Tour – 2012
NATIONWIDE TOUR STORYLINES – Week of April 16th
The Nationwide Tour travels east this week before playing two events in Georgia – the South Georgia Classic in Valdosta (April 26-29) and the Stadion Classic at UGA in Athens (May 3-6).
ALEX ARAGON IS TPC STONEBRAE SURVIVOR – With constant delays due to rain and fog, it was a minor miracle the TPC Stonebrae Championship completed 72 holes on time on Sunday. Stanford grad (2001) and Mexico City-born Alex Aragon did the best job of anyone, slogging his way through it all to capture his first Nationwide Tour victory in his 41st start. It wasn’t an easy week on the golf course or off it. From Thursday through Sunday he played 18, 0, 33 and 21 holes, respectively. On Thursday, he managed to lock his keys in his car on the way to TPC Stonebrae, but thanks to a two-hour fog delay didn’t miss his tee time. Then on Friday, he left his wallet at a gas station and when he returned, it was gone. A long week and hassles aside, Aragon left the San Francisco Bay area with a big smile on his face and a check for $108,000 to put in his new wallet. He returns home to San Diego fourth on the Nationwide Tour money list. Perhaps the icing on the cake was receiving the tournament trophy from Jerry Rice, his favorite athlete growing up.
MATT HARMON LIGHTS IT UP – Sponsor exemption Matt Harmon took full advantage of his tournament invitation. A final-round 61 (nine under) tied 2011 TPC Stonebrae Championship winner Daniel Chorpra’s record-setting round of last year. The 27-year-old from Michigan finished T2. He was making his first Nationwide Tour start of the year and only the ninth of his career. He moved inside “The 25” (T19 on the money list) and secured a spot in the Tour’s next event, next week’s South Georgia Classic in Valdosta.
PAUL HALEY II / NEAR MISS – Chile Classic champion Paul Haley II came within one shot of being in a playoff at the TPC Stonebrae Championship. Playing in the final threesome, the 24-year-old Georgia Tech man from Dallas missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. His T2 check pushed him to No. 2 on the money list.
SPEAKING OF THE MONEY LIST – The top 10 on the money list coming out of the TPC Stonebrae Championship looks like this (with previous week’s position in parenthesis):
1 – Andres Gonzales (1st) 6 – Paul Claxton (5th)
2 – Paul Haley II (4th) 7 – Edward Loar (6th)
3 – Andrew Soboda (2nd) 8 – Casey Wittenberg (7th)
4 – Alex Aragon (30th) 9 – Camilo Benedetti (9th)
5 – Skip Kendall (3rd) 10 – Joseph Bramlett (8th)
While determination of the final “25” won’t come until the last week in October, the competition for the 25thspot is always intriguing. After six of 27 events, $222 separates No. 25 Darron Stiles and No. 26 Tyrone Van Aswegen.
CELEBS RETURN TO BMW, SOUTH CAROLINA– The BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation announced its lineup of celebrities for this year’s event at its recent Media Day. First-time participants include Anthony Anderson (Law & Order), Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flatts), Danny Masterson (That ‘70s Show), Grant Show (Melrose Place) and Holly Sanders (Golf Channel/”Morning Drive”). Other celebrities among the 24 who were announced are Mark Bryan (Hootie & The Blowfish/4thappearance), Javier Colon (The Voice/8th), Greg Kinnear(talk show host & actor/4th), Cheech Marin (Cheech & Chong/8th), Rob Morrow (Numb3rs/2nd), Terry O’Quinn (LOST/4th) and Patrick Warburton(Seinfeld, Rules of Engagement/4th).
TORNADO TOUCHES HOST SITE IN WITCHITA– According to initial reports, a tornado on Saturday caused damage to Crestview Country Club, host venue for the Preferred Health Systems Witchita (Kan.) Open. While trees and debris are scattered over both the North and South courses at Crestview, the impact is not expected to affect playing conditions at the June 21-24 event.
BIRTHDAY BOYS – Celebrating birthdays during the off week are Mike Lavery (16th/turns 31), Philip Pettitt (19th/27) and Andy Bare (21st/31).
NEXT WEEK – The Tour takes a week off to travel east for back-to-back tournaments in the Peach State – South Georgia Classic (April 26-29) in Valdosta and Stadion Classic at UGA (May 3-6) in Athens.
CHAMPIONS TOUR UPDATE – Week of April 16
The Champions Tour heads to Savannah, GA. for the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa (April16-22). The purse is $2.7 million and the winning team will share $460,000 and receive 230 Charles Schwab Cup points each. Last year, David Eger/Mark McNulty prevailed in a playoff when the team of Scott Hoch/Kenny Perry missed short par putts on the second extra hole to hand the Legends Division title to the winners. Mark James/Des Smyth won the Raphael Division. Gibby Gilbert/J.C. Snead captured the Demaret Division by five strokes.
Michael Allen won his second career title on the Champions Tour with a three-stroke win over Kenny Perryat the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay and claimed his first event since the 2009 Senior PGA Championship, his debut event on the circuit. Allen’s victory ended a drought of 40 Champions Tour events. During the 40-event drought, Allen finished second five times, including at the previous Champions Tour event, the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
Kirk Triplett finished T8 in his debut on the Champions Tour, the best start by a Champions Tour player in his first appearance since Steve Pate was T8 last year at the Senior PGA Championship in his first start.
Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and his pro partner Mark Calcavecchia, claimed the pro-am portion of the tournament over Lisa O’Hurley, the wife of actor John O’Hurley, and her pro partner Olin Browne. Both teams tied with a three-round team score of 29-under-par 184.
For the 16th consecutive time on the Champions Tour, the tournament winner has come from Sunday’s final grouping. The last time the winner did not come out of the last grouping was at the 2011 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in July when Jeff Sluman was in the third-to-last grouping.
The Pacific Links Hawai’i Championship, a new addition to the 2012 Champions Tour schedule, was announced last weekend. The new 54-hole event will be played at Kapolei GC on September 10-16 and have a purse of $1.8 million. Pacific Links International is a Canadian-owned golf corporation pursuing a strategy of acquiring signature properties in select world markets. The company currently owns or operates eight courses in Hawaii, Nevada and West Virginia in the United States, and in China.
Two Champions Tour professionals, Fred Funk and Tom Pernice, Jr. played at RBC Heritage on the PGA TOUR last week. Both missed the cut.
Ten-time PGA TOUR winner Steve Elkingtonmade his first appearance in a Nationwide Tour event last week, but missed the cut at the TPC Stonebrae Championship. The 49-year-old Australian, whose victories include the 1995 PGA Championship and the 1997 PLAYERS Championship, turns 50 on December 8 making him eligible for the Champions Tour in 2013. Duffy Waldorf, who turns 50 in August, finished T2 in the event shooting four rounds in the 60s.
Insperity Championship patrons will see Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino compete in a special competition Saturday afternoon of tournament week at The Woodlands Tournament Course. The tournament has created a Greats of Golf competition that will include the ‘Big Four‘ along with Don January, Miller Barber, Gene Littler, David Graham and Dave Stockton. They will follow the last tee time of the official competition and play an 18-hole scramble format. This group includes five World Golf Hall of Fame members, has a combined total of 256 PGA TOUR wins, 46 major championship titles and 141 Champions Tour wins.
The PGA TOUR announced charitable proceeds of US$4.5 million from The Presidents Cup 2011. Fred Couples(USA) and Greg Norman (International) were team captains. Fellow Champions Tour professionals Jay Haas and John Cook were assistant captains for the US team.
The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf has three Divisions, the Legends Division (official money), the Raphael Division (ages 50-69) and the Demaret Division (70+). The fields will include a total of 15 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Seven of those players will compete in the Legends Division (Hubert Green, Hale Irwin, Lanny Wadkins, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Larry Nelson andTom Kite). The Raphael Division will include Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange. The Hall of Fame members in the Demaret Division include Billy Casper, Gary Player, Charlie Sifford, Doug Ford, Gene Littler and Lee Trevino. Sandy Lyle, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on May 7, will play in the Legends Division.
Charles Coody/Dale Douglass andMike Hill/Lee Trevino have an opportunity at this year’s Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf to become only the second team in history to win all three divisions. The team of Don January/Gene Littler became the first to claim all three divisions when they won the Demaret Division title in 2001.
When David Eger and Mark McNultycame from four strokes back to win the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf in a playoff in 2011, it equaled the biggest come-from-behind win in the long history of this event and it was also the third straight year the winners had come from behind.
There are two players at this year’s Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf who were in the first event in 1978. In addition to Doug Ford, who has played in every Legends event, 85-year-old Bob Toskiwill play in the Demaret Division with 90-year-old Jack Fleck, the oldest competitor in the field. Toski played with Chick Harbert in 1978, and the duo finished fifth. Ford partnered Gene Sarazen that year and finished T8.
The Charlie Daniels Band will be joined by Little Big Town in a community concert at Savannah’s historic Forsyth Park on Friday evening of tournament week during the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. The concert is free of charge and open to the public courtesy of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Gene Sauers, a three-time PGA TOUR winner and Georgia Golf Hall of Fame member who will make his debut on the Champions Tour in August, will host a charity pro-am at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa on Monday of tournament week at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the research of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare and potentially fatal skin disorder that Sauers battled in 2009. After enduring skin grafts and several long hospitalizations for the disorder, Sauers received a second lease on life and is eager to help others suffering from SJS.
CHARLES SCHWAB CUP
Michael Allen earned 240 Charles Schwab Cup points for winning the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay and takes over the lead in the season-long race. Allen now has 620 points andBernhard Langer is second with 463 points.
3 – The number of consecutive playoffs in the Legends Division of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa. All have gone two holes.
9 – The number of aces at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf since it began in 1978.
DID YOU KNOW
You could play with Fuzzy Zoeller by entering the “Fuzzy Needs a Fourth” contest. Visit insperitychampionship.com or the tournament’s Facebook page before April 23, 2012. The winner will play with Fuzzy in the Insperity Championship Pro-Am, attend the tournament pairings party, receive the Pro-Am gift package and two nights accommodations. The prize is valued at $5,000.
ON THIS DATE
4/17/05 – David Frost sets a new PGA TOUR 72-hole putting record with 92 total putts at the MCI Heritage Classic. One-putted his first 11 greens in the opening round and had 49 one-putts for the week and holed out two times from off the green at Harbour Town.
4/20/97 – Tom Lehman finishes T4 at the MCI Classic but vaults to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, becoming just the second American to accomplish that feat at the time (Fred Couples the other in 1992).
4/20/97 – Hale Irwin defends his PGA Seniors Championship title by the biggest margin in Champions Tour history in a 72-hole event – 12 strokes.
4/21/63 – Bob Charles becomes the first left-hander to win a PGA TOUR event when he beats Fred Hawkinsby one stroke at the Houston Classic.
QUOTES TO NOTE
“Fuzzy (Zoeller) told me to play like I was broke, so I tried to do that.” – Michael Allen comments on the advice he got before the final round of the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay. Allen held a five-shot lead entering the final round and won by three.
“I still think Bubba Watson has a chance. He’s gotten off to a bad start the last two days. If he can get off to a good start and use his length, he can make a run.” – Mark Calcavecchiamakes a good prediction in the New York Times golf blog the night before the final round of the 2012 Masters Tournament.
“I haven’t seen some of these guys in a long, long time. My wife and I were texting and I said ‘This is really weird, it’s like being in a time machine’.” – Kirk Triplettcomments on what the reception from other players has been like before the start of the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay, his first Champions Tour event. He finished T8.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK (April 10)
Gary Player @garyplayer Our GPI charity event was a great sucess raising 300k for underprivileged chilren’s education. I also had my 28th hole in one yesterday.