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.