Insider: Tour in 'good shape' with new faces, places

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Michael Allen, 51, is still competitive on the PGA TOUR and hopes to win out there before long.
February 03, 2010
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

The pieces are falling nicely into place for the Champions Tour.

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Paul Azinger and Tommy Armour III will tee it up for the first time on the Champions Tour next week at The Quarry in Naples, Fla.

Their widely-anticipated arrival comes on the heels of Fred Couples and Corey Pavin debuting in Hawaii.

On Tuesday, Couples gave the ACE Group Classic another dose of star power when he confirmed he will also play. The obvious conclusion from Couples' decision is that his Hawaiian experience is worth repeating.

"Judging from all the media reports and what everybody's been telling me since I got back from Hawaii, I think we kicked off the season as good as we can," said Mike Stevens, president of the Champions Tour.

"Tom and Fred in the final group and obviously playing just tremendous golf, some of the best I've ever watched."

Couples played exceptionally well in his debut and led by 1 stroke with two holes to play before Watson's clutch birdie-birdie finish for the victory.

"It wasn't over until (Watson) said it was over," said Couples, whose 21-under-par total wasn't quite good enough.

Couples returning to the fray again so soon on the Champions Tour echoes the positive vibes Stevens has been receiving.

"Given the state of the economy and the way of the world, I can say we're in pretty good shape right now," Stevens said.

No question the addition of Couples and Pavin has been a boost, and Azinger will continue that trend by giving the Champions Tour three more major champions. Armour will provide some personality and, before much longer, another major champion, Mark Calcavecchia, is due to arrive.

And there is Michael Allen, who continues to provide a storyline for the Champions Tour while he plays on the PGA TOUR. At 51, Allen is proving that Champions Tour guys still have game, as Watson did last summer at the Open Championship.

Allen treated himself to a final-round 65 at Torrey Pines Sunday on his 51st birthday to tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open. A week earlier, he opened 67-68-68 and was solidly in contention before a T25 finish.

Allen won his Champions Tour debut last year at the Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club in suburban Cleveland but he's not ready to give up on the PGA TOUR, where he's still looking for a first victory.

"I'm still desperate," Allen told reporters at Torrey Pines. "I'm still trying to make a living. I've still got two kids need to go through college. I love playing out here. I'm not like a lot of those guys who have had some great careers leading up to (the Champions Tour) and won quite a bit. I still want to win out here. That's my number one goal.

"Once I can accomplish that, I'll take different things into sight. But right now I enjoy playing out here and I enjoy my endeavor to try and win some golf tournaments out here."

Allen is playing like a guy worth waiting for.

Stevens is next off to Korea in advance of the Champions Tour's first experience in the Far East.

The New Songdo City Championship will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Songdo City September 10-12. The purse is $3 million. Songdo City is a massive trillion dollar development 30 miles outside of Seoul, South Korea.

"It was Jack who brought the opportunity to us," Stevens said of the three-year Korean deal. "We think it's a great opportunity. It fits well with our strategies and it's a good time for the Champions Tour to stick our toe in the water and see how viable it is for us to grow.

"We're not looking to do a bunch of international events. I want to set the record straight on that. This is one of those that made sense."

Stevens said the Champions Tour's positive experience in the Dominican Republic -- the Cap Cana Championships returns to the schedule March 26-28 at Punta Espada Golf Club -- led to the exploration of other opportunities.

"So we'll give Korea a test," he said.

Champions Tour Insider notes: • Couples, Pavin and Allen will play this week at the Northern Trust Open. Between them, Couples and Pavin won the event four times between 1990 and 1995.

• Couples is in the field for the 28th consecutive year. He has made the cut 25 times in 27 starts at Riviera Country Club, including 13 top 10s and victories in 1990 and 1992.

• This will be Pavin's 27th appearance and he also has two victories, in 1994 and 1995.

• Allen is planning on playing in Phoenix and the Honda. "I'm not sure about Pebble," he said. "I was planning on playing there ... I really am not completely sure what I'm going to do."

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