SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) -- During its first two years, skipping the Boeing Classic was an easy call for Champions Tour players.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|2006 FINAL LEADERBOARD|
|* = won in sudden death.|
Sure, it was the only professional golf event in the state of Washington, but the tournament fell the week before one of the Champions Tour majors, the JELD-WEN Tradition, and two weeks before a stop in Pebble Beach that few players missed.
If one of the three tournaments during the swing through the Pacific Northwest and Northern California was bypassed, the Seattle event was the most obvious.
"Personally for me there was the situation where you had a major, and if you played at Pebble and you're only wanting to be away from home for two weeks, it was a natural thing," said Loren Roberts, who is making his first appearance at the Seattle-area event this year.
Thanks to a schedule swap with the Tradition, the third year of the Boeing Classic features its strongest field when play begins on Friday at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge. For the second straight year, the tournament will start with a flyover by a Boeing 777.
Sixteen of the top 20 and 24 of the top 30 on the Champions Tour money list are playing this week. Jay Haas and Brad Bryant -- Nos. 1 and 2 on the money list -- are skipping the event, but the schedule switch has brought in the likes of Fuzzy Zoeller, Curtis Strange, Craig Stadler, and Roberts.
The field also includes first-time participants Scott Hoch, Mark O'Meara and Nick Price. Price and O'Meara tied for fourth when the 1998 PGA Championship was held at nearby Sahalee Country Club. The course also hosted the 2002 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Hoch, Price, Roberts and Eduardo Romero all played in that tournament.
"Most of the guys out here really support the tour. They play a lot of golf," said Zoeller, who missed last year's tournament due to a family commitment. "You can't play every week out here, you're going to miss one or two weeks here, but all in all they still support it, still play a lot."
This will be Price's first event since the end of June, when he finished tied for 22nd at the Commerce Bank Championship in East Meadow, N.Y. Tournament Director Chuck Nelson visited Price in Boston earlier this year to persuade him to play in the event.
"Obviously he's one of the great names and great guys in professional golf," Nelson said.
To entice a stronger field, Nelson went so far as to arrange for a charter flight for interested players who wanted an easy transfer between last week in Sunriver, Ore. and Seattle. Nelson's goal was to make it "very hard for (players) to say no to coming."
It seems to have paid off. Of the 78 players in the field, 23 did not play a year ago.
Last year, Tom Kite beat Keith Fergus in a playoff. Twice during last year's tournament, the course record was set, with Scott Simpson shooting 11-under 61 in the second round, and then Tom Jenkins matching the mark in the final round.
David Eger held off Kite to win by three shots in the first year of the tournament.
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