Planet Golf — 11 November 2021 by Candace Oehler
Stars Shoot for Schwab Cup

PHOENIX – No Fans/No Fun is done! The 2021 edition of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, held last year with very limited attendance due to Covid 19, has returned to iconic Phoenix Country Club with renewed excitement and enthusiasm. The grandstands, hospitality tents, beer gardens, and military hospitality outpost are all back.

Record crowds are expected to follow fan-favorite Phil Mickelson, making his first Schwab Cup Championship appearance, and his first return to Phoenix since the 2019 Waste Management Tournament.

35 of the top 36 players on the TOUR CHAMPIONS points list are competing for the ultimate prize in this season-ending 72-hole tournament from Nov. 11-14. Currently, three players – Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez, and Ernie Els still have a chance to catch …. wait for it …. five-time Charles Schwab Cup title holder Bernhard Langer. The scenarios are confusing, but simply put, a tournament win will earn Langer or Furyk the Cup. After that, things become much more convoluted. Els and Jimenez, for example, must not only win the tournament, but hope disaster strikes the two leading competitors.

Furyk is trying to keep it simple. “I haven’t really figured out scenarios or how they work. I mean, best case scenario is trying to go out and play the best you can, try to win a golf tournament, so I’m really just trying to worry about playing well and seeing what happens.”

Even those out of contention for the Schwab Cup have incentive to play well this week. The top-five finishers at season’s end will each receive annuity bonus prizes, ranging from $1 million to the Schwab Cup Champion, to $100,000 for the fifth-place finisher. That prize money will be distributed over 10 years.

The field is full of watchable pros, many of whom still play PGA TOUR events. Mickelson may be the “headliner,” but Fred Couples, Darren Clarke and Scottsdale resident Kirk Triplett will have their share of fans rooting them on. Locals are already betting on ASU Sun Devil Mickelson versus rival UA Wildcat grad Furyk.

Mickelson talked about the differences between playing the PGA TOUR and TOUR CHAMPIONS.

Furyk also dispelled the misconception that TOUR CHAMPIONS is simply . “Yeah, we all have a lot of pride in our game. We’re still competitive, that’s the reason we’re out here playing, trying to win golf tournaments, trying to have a great season and at the end of it, just like we had the FedExCup when we were younger, now we’ve got the Schwab Cup. You want to put your name on that trophy as well.”

He added, “Yeah, I think a lot of it deals with pride, what keeps us motivated. One, we like to compete. Two, we have a lot of pride in our craft and what we’ve done our whole life, so you want to come out here and play well and compete and try to win.”

Els, who has been on TOUR CHAMPIONS for a year and a half, shares that opinion. “Yeah, I knew it was going to be competitive, but I’m still surprised how the guys are still working on their games, really staying sharp. The guys enjoy it, but they’re here to really compete week in and week out. I’m not really surprised, but I am a little bit because these guys are really, really good and you’ve got to show up. Nothing’s been given to you out on this tour, you’ve got to go out and earn it, so it’s a good place to play.”

Mickelson, a 45-time PGA TOUR winner and six-time major champion, reflected on the state of his game at the age of 51:

Chip Shots:

Phil played Wednesday’s Pro Am with Charles R. Schwab and two local First Tee golfers, Abi Morris and Jake Walden. The two high school seniors were thrilled to play 18 with Phil, and raved about how friendly, helpful and fun he was.

Bernhard Langer on how he has sustained success for so long (now 64 years old): You can’t answer that in a couple of sentences. There’s many things that need to be in line or good to be playing at this level for that many It’s not just a golf swing, it’s the mental side, it’s the putting, the chipping, the bunker game, withstanding pressures, enjoy still working at it when you think you maybe could be retired or should be retired at times. It’s a big puzzle really and all pieces have to be together and working at a fairly high percentage to make this happen.

Whimsy: Sponsor San Tan Ford has decked out the tee boxes with mini-Fords. It’s cute, ok?

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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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