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    • CHARLES SCHWAB CUP

      Senior Open Championship opportunity for players to greatly improve Charles Schwab Cup position

    • Colin Montgomerie leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings entering the Senior Open Championship. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Colin Montgomerie leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings entering the Senior Open Championship. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    In a season-long points race such as the Charles Schwab Cup, it is important to think of the season as a marathon rather than a sprint. Week-to-week consistency is key to having a chance to lift the Schwab Cup at the end of the year in Scottsdale, Arizona.

    But while season-long performance is a precursor to success at the year-end Charles Schwab Cup Championship, it is also important to take advantage of the double-points awarding events — the five major championships and the aforementioned Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

    On the Champions Tour, Schwab Cup points are awarded to players that finish in the top 10 in any given week, and the points correspond to the amount of money a player wins. One thousand dollars is equal to one point: If a player wins $150,000, then they earn 150 points.

    But during major championships — like this week’s Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex — the points double for those in the top 10, and all 30 qualifiers in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship receive double points. In the scenario above, a player earning $150,000 in a major championship would earn 300 Schwab Cup points.

    It was exactly that doubling of Charles Schwab Cup points that vaulted Colin Montgomerie over Bernhard Langer for the lead in the standings last week with his win at the U.S. Senior Open. With a winner’s share of $630,000 last week, and the largest total purse on the Champions Tour this season at $3.5M, Montgomerie earned 1,260 points and unseated Langer by a mere 23 points.

    The feat was not lost on Montgomerie.

    “I know it's double points in these majors, so it counts,” Montgomerie said after his victory. “He (Langer) has won one (major) and I've won a couple. We'll have a battle royale coming in the last few months on tour, but I look forward to it. He's a great champion.”

    Capitalizing on the double points events has historically been important to eventual Charles Schwab Cup champions. Last year’s champion, Kenny Perry, earned 74 percent of his points at the double-points awarding events, winning both the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and the U.S. Senior Open.

    Back-to-back Schwab Cup champion Tom Lehman earned 79 percent of his points in double points events in 2012, but finished consistently higher in regular-points events in 2011, lowering that percentage to 44. 2010 Champion Langer won the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior Open Championship and tied for third in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, earning 62 percent of his points in those three double-points events.

    Clearly, it is important for players to perform well in the biggest events if they want the best chance to come out on top at the end of the season, though it is possible to win the Schwab Cup without a major. Hale Irwin claimed the Charles Schwab Cup without winning a major championship or the season-ending event in 2002, but it took remarkable consistency throughout the season. In 27 starts that year, Irwin recorded 27 top 25s, 22 top 10s and four victories. He is the only Charles Schwab Cup champion to date to not record a win in a double-points event.

    With the double-points events cemented as extremely important to end-of-the-year success, a slew of players have their eyes on this week’s Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales as an important tournament to make a move in the Schwab Cup standings, as it is the last double-points awarding event before the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

    Through the years, the Senior Open Championship has led a number of players to success in the Charles Schwab Cup: Bernhard Langer (2010), Loren Roberts (2009) and links guru Tom Watson (2003, 2005) all won the Senior Open Championship on their way to eventual Charles Schwab Cup victories.

    All of the stats above should serve as a warning to those who have yet to win a Champions Tour major: If you want the best shot at prevailing in Scottsdale at the end of the year, you need to win in Wales.

    That warning does not apply to defending Schwab Cup champion Kenny Perry, who already won this year’s Regions Tradition, and has opted not to take the trip to the UK for a chance at the Senior Open. It also doesn’t apply two-time major winner Colin Montgomerie and perennial contender Bernhard Langer, who captured the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship earlier this summer.

    There are a few players to keep your eye on for potential moves in the Schwab Cup standings this week in Wales, and to start one needs to look no further than two-time Charles Schwab Cup champion, Jay Haas. He currently sits in third place in the standings, 1,063 points behind Montgomerie. A victory would go a long way to increasing his chances of claiming a third Schwab Cup, as the winner this week will earn approximately 600 points.

    Jeff Sluman has been knocking on the door in the major championships all season, with three top 10s in the first four, including a playoff loss to Langer at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. At fourth in the standings, he could put himself in strong position for the rest of the summer with a win.

    It seems wrong not to include Tom Watson’s name on a players to watch list at a links golf course. The five-time British Open champion, three-time Senior Open champion and two-time Schwab Cup champion has been in good form recently, including a made cut at The Greenbrier on the PGA TOUR. Time never seems to run out on Watson, and at 12th in the standings, the Ryder Cup captain can make quite a splash in the Schwab Cup conversation with a victory at the Senior Open.

    The season-long race for the Charles Schwab Cup is a battle of consistency throughout the season, but it is also important for players to succeed when the lights are the brightest and the points are doubled. The Senior Open Championship marks the last chance for players to earn double points until the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in October. With that in mind, this week could go a long way in helping determine who lifts the Charles Schwab Cup at the end of the season.

    CHARLES SCHWAB CUP CHAMPIONS
    Percentage of Schwab Cup points earned in double-points events

    YEAR PLAYER PERCENTAGE
    2013 Kenny Perry
    74%
    2012 Tom Lehman
    79%
    2011 Tom Lehman 44%
    2010 Bernhard Langer
    62%
    2009 Loren Roberts 56%
    2008 Jay Haas
    55%
    2007 Loren Roberts 58%
    2006 Jay Haas 48%
    2005 Tom Watson 84%
    2004 Hale Irwin
    69%
    2003 Tom Watson 89%
    2002 Hale Irwin 23%
    2001 Allen Doyle 26%
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