PHOENIX – It’s the same …. only different. It’s still the Charles Schwab Cup Championship tournament being contested at Phoenix Country Club Nov. 6-8, but this year, the Cup is missing. The PGA TOUR Champions event historically ends the season, crowns not only a tournament winner, but awards the season-long points champion with the coveted Cup. Due to COVID-19, and the cancellation of 14 tournaments, the event has been reconfigured, and reimagined.
Now a three-day, 54-hole event, it features a full-field of 81 golfers, instead of the top 36 on the PGA TOUR Champions money list. It is still the final tournament of the calendar year, but the 2020-2021 season will wrap around and once again culminate at Phoenix Country Club next November, where the Charles Schwab Cup will be awarded.
The field is truly star-studded, frankly, more exciting than the limited 36-player field. It includes rookies Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, both two-time winners this season. They are joined by fellow members of the strong rooking class of 2020-2021: Robert Karlsson, Brett Quigley, Shane Bertsch, and Mike Weir.
Fred Couples, Retief Goosen, Tom Lehman, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Kenny Perry, and Vijay Singh are all here. Five-time Charles Schwab Cup Champion Bernhard Langer, who has eight top-10s, and three runner-up finishes in 12 starts at the tournament, is here looking for his first Schwab Cup tournament win.
Among the field are 24 players with a PGA TOUR Champions major victory; 23 with a PGA TOUR major. So, yes, definitely an outstanding field.
There are even eight(!) Masters winners – Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993), Larry Mize (1987), Sandy Lyle (1988), Fred Couples (1992), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994, 1999), Mark O’Meara (1998), Vijay Singh (1999), and Mike Weir (2003).
Next week’s Masters was a hot topic of conversation:
Jim Furyk – It’s going to be in great shape. But I imagine they had to overseed that golf course very early to get the growth, to get the grass the way the wanted to, which would mean they’d have to water pretty heavily to do so. Can the golf course dry out for a month, is it going to play firm and fast like we all want to see Augusta, or is it going to be a little slower, a little longer, maybe even favor the bomber. They can always control the firmness of the greens, but it’s the fairways and the roll of the drives that is difficult to control, so we’ll see.
Ernie Els – My rookie year was my first and my best time there. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Augusta National. The members and the club and the facility are unbelievable, but the golf course itself, it didn’t quite go my way. I played with some great champions there in the past. My first time playing the tournament I played with Ben Crenshaw, and he was kind of a master of Augusta, and he showed me around the tournament and the golf course. I shot a 67, which is still one of the best rounds I played there. Ben was a good mentor for me around there.
It’s all about the weather report next week for those guys. If it’s wet and cold and rainy, the long hitters are really going to benefit. Tell me the weather report and I’ll give you my predictions.
Fred Couples –I’ve been watching the weather, it seems to be warm which will help a little bit. I’m there to make the cut. I didn’t make the cut last year, and I played 13 and 15 horrifically, and then the second round I shot 70, and if I wasn’t choking to make the cut I probably could have shot 67 or 68.
I think I’m playing well enough to make the cut. But it’s so tough to play there four days and play every hole well. My days of really, really competing there are to make the cut. Sad to say, but it is what it is.
Re Tiger – I talk to him every day. We’re playing Monday (with Justin Thomas). You know, he’s wound up. He’s a funny guy. I think he’ll be just fine. He loves the place, he can play there at any given time. It just depends on how he feels, and I can relate to that. But when I don’t feel well, I can still slap it around. But when you’re the greatest player to ever play it kind of wears on you a little bit. But he’ll get used to it, and if he’s feeling healthy he’ll be one of the 10 or 15 guys to beat.