SNOQUALMIE, Wa. — The current crop of Champions Tour rookies is among the best in tour history, and there still is plenty of time remaining this season for this group to reach the top.
Going into The Boeing Classic, which begins Friday at TPC Snoqualmie, there have been four 50-year-old winners so far this season – just one short of the single-season record shared by rookie classes in 1989, ‘99 and 2007 — with nine events remaining.
“This is a great group of guys,” Charles Schwab Cup points leader Kenny Perry said on Thursday. “They bring a lot of firepower, a lot (of) notoriety.”
The rookie victory parade of 2013 started the first week of February when Rocco Mediate made his Champions Tour debut a winning one, capturing the Allianz Championship in Bacon Raton, Fla. Lesser-known Estaban Toledo won the Insperity Championships in Houston the first week of May, Japan’s Kohki Idoki, playing his first tournament on American soil, stunned the golfing world by
winning the Senior PGA Championship, and Bart Bryant became the fourth first-year winner at last week’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.
A four-time winner on the Champions Tour, including two this year – The Seniors Players championship and U.S. Senior Open – Perry (rookie class of 2010) realizes that the quality of incoming players is increasing from year to year with no end in sight.
“The next few years you’re going to see this Tour really taking off,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of guys coming out with a lot of career money and you’re going to see a rollover affect a little bit. The golf is just going to keep getting stronger and stronger out here.”
Whereas the vast majority of professional golfers count the days before celebrating their 50th birthday, just so they can join the Champions Tour, Vijay Singh, who turned 50 on Feb. 22, has yet to make his debut.
Mediate surely is the most recognizable among the first-year winners so far this year, but keep an eye of some others, such as Colin Montgomerie and Steve Elkington. Both are entered in the Boeing Classic, along with Idoki and Toledo.
Others are: Jeff Brehaut, Rick Fehr, Anders Forsbrand, Doug Garwood, Brian Henninger, John Inman, Neal Lancaster, John Riegger, Lance Ten Broeck.
Although Gene Sauers and Duffy Waldorf played in last year’s Boeing Classic, they are still rookies on the tour because they have played fewer than six Champions Tour events.
“Elk is a major winner (PGA Championship in 1995) and Colin is an eight-time or whatever European money Order of Merit winner,” Perry added. “I actually played with him Monty last week and had a great time with him. He’s a super guy.”
Montgomery has won a record eight Order of Merit titles, including a streak of seven consecutively from 1993 to 1999. He has won 31 European Tour events, the most of any British player, placing him fourth on the all time list of golfers with most European Tour victories.
Monty, who turned 50 on June 23, has two top 10 finishes in the five events he has played and ranks 35th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list. Elkington has four top 10s and is 29th on the points list.
It probably is just a matter of time before either one of them wins on the Champions Tour.
“Elk, who’s a great, great player, has been (competitive) every week,” Seattle native and Boeing Classic favorite Fred Couples said. “And now, Colin Montgomerie. These are top players that played on the regular tour and fought in majors, won majors and know how to play.
“I honestly believe this Tour is really strong, a sharp Tour, and really fun.”