By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Observations, celebrations and a story of determination as the Champions Tour turns the pages of the calendar to May and the Insperity Championship:
Bernhard Langer speaks softly and carries a big stick – and it’s not that broomhandle putter we’re talking about.
Langer always has some well-chosen words. He doesn’t exaggerate and he doesn’t use euphemisms. He says what he thinks and thinks about what he says.
After his victory at the Greater Gwinnett Championship, Langer said some of golf’s big events are missing the proverbial boat.
“I think it would be a wonderful idea or recognition if the major championships in the world would actually have players from the Champions Tour,” Langer said.
He said the winner of the Charles Schwab Cup would be a viable candidate or the leading money winner on the Champions Tour.
“I don't think they (the major championship) would lose anything by doing that,” Langer said. “I think they would gain two wonderful players, great legends, champions of the game. It would be a great addition to the tournaments. So I'll leave it in your court, spread that around.”
OK. Consider it done but there’s nobody more capable of spreading the word than Langer. Past champions are exempt at the Masters Tournament and the British Open. The PGA Championship invites the reigning Senior PGA Champion to play in its tournament. Langer is correct. Adding the Charles Schwab Cup points leader or the Senior Player of the Year would only elevate major championships that little bit more. Surely, there is no downside to it.
Brad Faxon never doubted that his partnership with Jeff Sluman would provide top 10-style highlights. Neither did Sluman, who approached Faxon even before he was eligible to play on the Champions Tour with a proposal. Sluman asked Faxon to be his partner at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf.
“When Jeff asked me, I said this is a perfect marriage because it’s not like we're going to get mad at each other if either one of us doesn't play well,” Faxon said. “I know he's going to try his hardest, I'm going to try my hardest.”Play hard they did and it resulted in victory at the Legends of Golf. And, of course, that meant something special would happen.
It was two years ago at the Insperity Championship – this week’s event on the Champions Tour – that Faxon earned his first victory on the Champions Tour.
While Faxon was in the middle of his post-victory television interview, he got a face-full of whipped cream. The instigator: Sluman.
If you hit a guy in the face with a cream pie, you’d better be his friend.
In Savannah, while Sluman was being interviewed following their victory, it was Faxon’s turn to return the celebratory pie-in-the-face. Touche.
“(Sluman) did it to me two years ago,” Faxon said. “He thinks a lot quicker than I do, and when he did that to me it was on Golf Channel. When we finished (at the Legends of Golf), somebody came up with the great idea of doing that back to him and it was perfect. My mind was spinning so I wouldn't have been able to remember that.”
Can’t wait until one of them wins again. The stakes have been raised. Next time, whipped cream just won’t seem like it’s enough. Lemon meringue would be much more suitable.
Esteban Toledo was disappointed, sure. But he was not forlorn.
Toledo failed to hold on to the 36-hole lead at the Greater Gwinnett Championship. After a final-round 75 at TPC Sugarloaf cost him a chance for a breakthrough victory on the Champions Tour, Toledo sat pensively at his locker.
“I didn’t win but I played good except for just a shot or two,” Toledo said. “I will keep trying. I will work hard and someday it’s going to happen. I know it. I’m a fighter.”
Toledo also knows that accomplishing that goal will be “the greatest challenge I’ve ever had.
“Winning on the Champions Tour would mean everything,” he said.
Toledo’s story has been well-documented. A native of Mexicali, Mexico, he came to the United States to have a better life. He lifted himself up, played on the PGA TOUR and today has conditional status on the Champions Tour. He’s making the most of the opportunity with some solid golf, including three top 10s in his four last starts.
Last week, he stepped in for the injured Nick Price and teamed with Mark O’Meara for a T4 finish at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf.
Toledo finished T6 on his home course, Newport Beach Country Club, at the Toshiba Classic before a T7 at TPC Sugarloaf.
“I'm not afraid to win," he said. “I grew up in Mexico with nothing. It would be an unbelievable story for my country."
Toledo is a good guy, the kind everybody pulls for. He’s determined and dedicated. It would be one of the best feel-good stories of 2013 if he can fulfill his dream.