PHOENIX – It was a roller coaster Sunday at Phoenix Country Club, where both the Charles Schwab Cup and Charles Schwab Cup Championship were being contested under typically sunny Phoenix skies.
Jim Furyk, a PGA TOUR Champions rookie, nearly had the Charles Schwab Cup in hand, after leading the tournament pretty much all week long and beginning the final round with a one-stroke lead. Surprisingly, it came down to the very last shot of the tournament where an eagle would have won him the Cup. But his even-par 71, T5 finish opened the door to Bernhard Langer who, although sitting in 17th place, had enough of a points lead to overtake Furyk and hoist his sixth Cup.
Langer, who battled a balky back all week and nearly withdrew on Thursday, sympathized with Furyk, noting “What a great champion and gentleman Jim is. He’ll have many more chances to lift this trophy.”
Meanwhile, it was a triumphant return to Phoenix for ASU Sun Devil Phil Mickelson, who began the day in fifth place, three strokes behind the leader. He tore up the course en route to a 6-under 65 (-19), good enough for a one-stroke Charles Schwab Cup Championship victory over Steven Alker. Playing all week to cheers of “ASU! ASU!,” Mickelson notched his fourth win in six starts on PGA TOUR Champions, and becoming the only four-time winner this season.
Mickelson has thoroughly enjoyed his rookie season. “It’s been fun for me to play out here and see so many guys that I grew up and spent decades with, life-long friends. Then to play well and have some success is very meaningful.”
He added, “I’m hoping to use the opportunity to play and compete here as a way to keep my game sharp and have a few special moments on the regular Tour like I had this year in May. If I could have a couple more of those, that’s really what motivates me to work hard, to get in the gym in the offseason, put in the time and the effort to have those special moments. I would love to have a couple more. And then these are great, too.”
He also marveled at the level of golf 64-year old Langer continues to display.
“It’s really amazing how Bernhard has played so well for so long, but he works at it. He works so hard at it and is in the gym constantly and he’s constantly working out, recovering and practicing and hitting balls. His work ethic is second to none and the results show. He’s kind of the gold standard for what professional golf is about. You have
talent, but you’ve got to put in the time and work in to have success.”
Said Langer humbly, “I’m just overwhelmed, you know, at 64 to win this thing six times. It will probably be my last
one, I’m almost sure of that, but it’s very, very special.”
“I still have some game,” he added. “I obviously realize it’s getting harder with the strong rookies we had coming out the last two years, which was a very strong group of Jim Furyk and Mickelson and Ernie Els, Retief, K.J. Choi, Mike Weir, Cejka, all the major winners, Hall of Famers. They make it very hard. They’re going to win a whole bunch of tournaments and it makes it that much harder for someone like me to win because I’m hitting it shorter than most of them and that puts me behind the eight-ball to start off with. But there’s still a bunch of courses where I can compete at a very high level and maybe win one or two down the road.”
And, oh, by the way, the newly-crowned Charles Schwab Cup Champion has not only been playing with a bad back, but a bum knee and is flying to Germany Monday to get it “worked on.”
“I will not be hitting any balls for about six to eight weeks just to get rehab done on my knee, and hopefully I’ll be healthy starting next January again in Hawaii. That’s the goal for now. I’ve been dealing with this knee now for four, five years and it’s time to do something about it.”
PGA TOUR Champions players, beware a 100% healthy Bernhard Langer!
Top finishers in Charles Schwab Cup and payout (annuities over 10 years):
- Bernhard Langer – $1,000,000
- Jim Furyk – $500,000
- Miguel Angel Jimenez – $300,000
- Ernie Els – $200,000
- Jerry Kelly – $100,000
Miguel Angel Jimenez finished the tournament T7, rookie Ernie Els at T18, and Jerry Kelly T24.
Seattle native Fred Couples finished T13 (-13).
Steven Alker, who started the day two back, finished in second with a 4-under 67, and 18-under for the week. The New Zealander earned the last spot in the field with his win last week at the Timber Tech Championship.