Numbers Planet Golf — 10 November 2023 by Candace Oehler
Els Takes Early Lead in Phoenix

PHOENIX – He can’t win the PGA TOUR Champions Charles Schwab Cup, but Ernie Els certainly has a shot at hoisting the 33rd Charles Schwab Cup Championship trophy and cashing a check for $528,000 on Sunday. He finished Thursday’s first round at Phoenix Country Club with a stellar bogey-free 63, to take a two-stroke lead over Thongchai Jaidee, Harrison Frazar and Stephen Ames.

The 54-year old World Golf Hall of Fame member, who entered the week with four consecutive top-10 finishes, matched his low 18-hole score on PGA TOUR Champions. He is making his third appearance at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and is seeking his second win of the season.

“Just overall I felt good, my body felt good and I got off to a nice start birdieing three out of the first four,” he said following the round.

“I just kept it going. Conditions were perfect and I felt comfortable. It was one of those days when each shot felt comfortable kind of, off the tees and the iron shots and made some putts. I felt I needed to get off to a good start. The golf course is there for the taking if the weather’s like this. I knew golf scores were going to be good today.”

Charles Schwab Cup leader Steve Stricker hoped to cap off his extraordinary season with the Cup in his hands on Sunday afternoon, but withdrew due to family illness. It has been a PGA TOUR Champions dream season for the 56-year old, in which he won six times, including three senior majors. He finished the season with 3,986,063 points, making it mathematically impossible for any player to catch him even by winning the tournament. While that makes for a slightly anti-climactic Sunday ending, the remaining players in the field are all still fighting for a share of the $3,000,000 tournament prize purse.

Day One Notes

  • Miguel Angel Jimenez and World Golf Hall of Fame member Retief Goosen sit T5 after each opening with 5-under 66.
  • Reigning Charles Schwab Cup winner Steven Alker (T7) birdied five of his first six holes but played his final 12 holes in 1-over en route to 4-under 67.
  • Charles Schwab No. 2 Bernhard Langer, a six-time winner of the Charles Schwab Cup, sits T11 after shooting 3-under 69.
  • Defending champion Padraig Harrington and 2015 champion Billy Andrade are among the players T16 after each opening with 2-under 69.

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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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