Planet Golf — 07 November 2019 by Candace Oehler
Champions in the Desert

PHOENIX, AZ – The competition for the PGA TOUR Champions Charles Schwab Cup culminates in Phoenix this week with the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club, November 7-10, 2019.

Best friends Scott McCarron and Jerry Kelly, each with three victories this year, enter the final playoff tournament atop the points leaderboard, with McCarron holding a slight edge.  Their scenario is simple – win the tournament, win the Cup.  McCarron, who has led the points race since April, knows that his job is not finished yet.

“I think there’s four or five guys who, with a win here, could possibly win the Schwab Cup. I’ve got to take care of my job first and foremost and have a chance to win this golf tournament. If I do that, then we have a good chance to win the Schwab Cup,” said the 54-year old.

He is correct.  Along with Kelly, three other golfers are still mathematically in position to hoist the Cup and take home the $1 million annuity, including the ageless Bernhard Langer, who won his fifth Schwab Cup last year; Colin Montgomerie, whose playoff victory over Langer last week snapped a 52-tournament winless streak; and PGA TOUR Champions  rookie Retief Goosen.  Defending Tournament winner Vijay Singh failed to make the final field.

McCarron, who has been close to the Cup the past three years, with finishes of 4th, 3rd, and last year, 2nd, stressed the importance of being aggressive this week.

“I mean, I don’t have a big enough lead where I can just try to shoot par around here,” he said.  “These guys are going to go low.  It’s a golf course that is in great shape, the greens are absolutely perfect, so you’re going to have to go low every day.  You’re going to have to be aggressive.”

He also believes the course sets up well for his game, explaining, “I like this golf course.  I played well here the last couple years.  It’s got a lot of par 5s I can reach, a couple par 4s that I can be aggressive on, hit driver, get it up there near the green, but you’ve got to drive the ball fairly straight here.  I don’t hit a lot of drivers because it’s a little short and tight in some areas, but you’ve got to put the ball in the fairway and put the ball on the green.  You have to make a lot of putts here this week.:

Kelly, a new local snowbird who has learned the hard way about black light and desert scorpions, is finally healthy after knee and elbow injuries the last several years.  He likes his chances.

“I’ve been hurt the last two years playing here, so this is the first time I’ve felt good coming into it.  I’m really looking forward to it because I can actually hit it longer than some of the long players out here because I’m going to hit more drivers than most.  I like to funnel it through the bunkers rather than keep it short of them.  So in some terms I can hit it further on a hole than some of the longer hitters that may lay back.  It will play into my hands a little bit more, but I’ve got to get the ball in the fairway while I do that.”

While the 6,763-yard, par 71 course is not long, it still offers numerous challenges over four rounds.

Explains McCarron, “It’s fairly narrow, so you’ve got to drive the ball straight and that’s one of the biggest factors here.  It’s not a big golf course.  You walk off every green right to the next tee.  It’s an old‑school golf course, which is a lot of fun, but having said that, it’s tight in some areas so you’ve got to put the ball in play.”

In spite of his five Schwab Cup victories, Bernhard Langer has never won this tournament. 
But, he believes that the unfamiliar position of chaser rather than leader could play to his advantage.

“I haven’t had a top‑3, so I need to figure out what has not gone right and do it better,” he said.  “I think part of that could have been that I was leading coming here and playing maybe a little more defensively than most of the time.  This year I’m going to have to attack, attack every hole, attack every pin and be aggressive and hopefully it will pay off.”

Tournament Notes

Pro-Am Day was made much more entertaining thanks to the presence of Amy Bockerstette, best known for making par from a bunker at the iconic16th hole at last year’s Waste Management Tournament practice round with Gary Woodland.  Her “I got this!” became Woodland’s inspiration as he went on to win the US Open.  Amy, who has Down syndrome, served as junior reporter for the day and had more selfie requests than any of the pros.

Presidents Cup Assistant Captains Steve Stricker (10th) and Fred Couples (26th)  withdrew from the Tournament.

Louisiana country singer and songwriter Dylan Scott will be performing at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Friday, November 8, at 5 pm.  The concert is in partnership with KMLE 107.9, presented by Michelob Ultra and will take place on the first tee.

Tournament director Tiffany Nelson added that preceding the concert, tournament officials will announce a $30,000 contribution, in thanks to Valley Toyota Dealers and Thunderbird Charities to Folds of Honor in an effort help aid their mission to provide educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members. That donation, and all other proceeds from the concert, will go directly to Folds of Honor, continuing to build upon the Charles Schwab Cup Championship’s charitable contributions, now totaling over $5.5 million since the tournament’s inception. 

All active duty and Reserve, military retirees, and their dependents receive free entry all week. Military ticket includes access to the Birdies for the Brave® Patriots’ Outpost hospitality chalet presented by United Rentals.


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About Author

Candace Oehler’s deep dive into sports media began several decades ago when she won a trip from Seattle to Mariners spring training in Arizona. Noting that non-English-speaking Latino ball players received little, if any, media coverage, she fluently/en español became a pioneer in Spanish sports media, and eventually became known affectionately throughout the Latino MLB community as “La Veterana.” Candace has written for team publications and; hosted her own radio show on several Spanish-language stations; served as producer/reporter/engineer for the Mariners’ inaugural season of Spanish radio broadcasts; and has been a reporter for MLB Network Radio the past 10 years. She was invited to Venezuela by future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel to cover rebuilding efforts and accomplishments of his charitable foundation following the devastating 1999 mudslides; worked in Puerto Rico for former Major Leaguers Joey Cora and Carlos Baerga managing fundraising events; and was the only female in the raucous locker room when the hometown favorite Licey Tigers won the 2004 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Candace was introduced to the game of golf in 1992 by members of Seattle’s historic Fir State Golf Club, who had approached her to manage their (then) little fundraising tournament hosted by a shy, gangly 15-year old Tiger Woods. Candace co-managed the annual event for nearly 20 years, working with hosts that included Ken Griffey, Sr., Birdie Griffey, Mike Cameron, Nate McMillan, Warren Moon, and Dale Ellis. She became secretary of the club and the Fir State Junior Golf Foundation, and got totally, completely hooked on golf, learning to play on a set of Redbirds given to her by the club (apparently they considered her mother’s Patty Bergs a bit antiquated). She has since traded up to another set of Redbirds and a much more user-friendly golf environment in Arizona. And, once a prolonged stint on the DL is over, she can’t wait to get back on the course and continue lowering her current 21-handicap to ….?

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