DAVID FROST TO MAKE CHAMPIONS TOUR DEBUT: David Frost, a 10-time winner on the PGA TOUR and the winner of more than a dozen events worldwide, will debut at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn.
The South African was one of the top-ranked players in the world from 1987-96 and won the Byron Nelson Award for the lowest scoring average on the PGA TOUR in 1987. His best year on the PGA TOUR came in 1993 when he was fifth on the money list, with $1,030,717 and won the Canadian Open as well as the Hardee's Golf Classic. He was also a two-time Presidents Cup choice (1994 and 1996).
Frost has been competing on the European Tour the last three years. His last appearance in a PGA TOUR event came in 2008 when he tied for 51st at the British Open. Frost joins several other former PGA TOUR players who made their debuts this year. They include (with their debut finish in parentheses) Russ Cochran (T7/Allianz Championship), Jay Don Blake (T48/The Cap Cana Championship), Tom Lehman (won with Bernhard Langer at Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf), Bob Tway (T68/Regions Charity Classic), Olin Browne (T50/Principal Charity Classic), Curt Byrum (T48/The Cap Cana Championship), Robin Freeman (T8/U.S. Senior Open) and Keith Clearwater (T42/Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach).
THOMPSON CLOSING IN ON 1,000th CAREER START: Veteran Leonard Thompson, a native of Laurinburg, N.C., will make his 999th career start in a PGA TOUR or Champions Tour event in this tournament. A three-time winner on both the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour, Thompson has made 651 starts on the PGA TOUR and 347 on the Champions Tour. Thompson attended Wake Forest and is a member of that school's Athletic Hall of Fame.
FUNK HAS OPPORTUNITY TO INCREASE HIS LEAD: With Loren Roberts and Bernhard Langer having previous commitments this week, leaving them unable to play in Hickory, Charles Schwab Cup leader Fred Funk has an opportunity to increase his lead in the season-long race. Funk has had a nice run, starting in late July at the Senior British Open where he finished second, losing in a playoff with Mark McNulty and eventual winner Roberts.
He followed with a six-stroke victory at the recent U.S. Senior Open in Carmel, Ind., blistering the course with a 72-hole total of 20-under 268. His 20-under score represented the most strokes below par in a USGA championship, breaking Hale Irwin's mark of 17-under at the 2000 U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley C.C. Funk also had tied for fifth at the JELD-WEN Tradition and tied for eighth at the recent Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. His victory at Crooked Stick at the U.S. Senior Open marked the seventh consecutive time he has finished in the top five in a major championship on the Champions Tour. He is also the only player to have finished in the top 10 in all three major championships this year.
NEW PLAYERS TO COMPETE IN THE EVENT: Several new players will tee it up at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn for the first time, including some with major championship wins on their resumes. The former major winners competing this year will be Bob Tway, Larry Mize, Hal Sutton, Peter Jacobsen and Sandy Lyle. In addition, Olin Browne, Ronnie Black, John Cook, Russ Cochran, Joey Sindelar, Blaine McCallister and David Frost, all former PGA TOUR winners, will also compete for the first time.
SEVERAL LOOKING FOR FIRST WINS IN 2009: Several 2008 winners are still looking for their first wins in 2009, including Jay Haas, Scott Hoch, Denis Watson, 2007 and 2008 Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn winner R.W. Eaks and Tom Watson, all multiple winners a year ago. Others without a win include Tom Kite, Jerry Pate, Mark Wiebe, Bruce Vaughan and D.A. Weibring.
NIELSEN SUPPORTS VETERANS: Champions Tour player Lonnie Nielsen, through the Iowa PGA Section, became a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation in 2009. He's heading the "Birdies for Heroes Challenge" and is donating $50 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle this year. So far this year, Nielsen made 187 birdies and four eagles to net the organization $11,350. The GIVE Foundation is committed to supporting the mental, social, physical and emotional well-being of veterans.
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A LOOK AT THE 2009 COMPETITION: In the first 19 official events on the Champions Tour this year, only six of those have been won by the 36- or 54-hole leader. When Jeff Sluman won the recent Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, he became the first player to successfully defend his title. In fact, only four players who were defending a title finished in the top 10. Seven of 19 events have been decided by one stroke, and five winners have been determined in a playoff. Bernhard Langer (Triton Financial Classic) and Fred Funk (U.S. Senior Open) both own six-stroke victories, best on the Champions Tour in 2009.