July 02, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Editor's note: Vartan Kupelian is the Champions Tour Insider and a PGATOUR.COM Contributor. Each week, Kupelian will size up the field and provide his top 5 players going into the tournament, based on factors such as the player's strengths, the course setup, recent performances, etc.
Magic happens when Jeff Sluman tees it up in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Sluman won the title in 2011 for the third time in four years. Four shots behind Jay Haas early in the final round, Sluman rallied to victory on the strength of a 2-under-par 70.
"I've been very comfortable on this golf course for the last 20 years," Sluman said after his victory last year. "It's hard to explain. It doesn't mean you're going to play well but I've had success here and I think that's because I am comfortable."
There's no doubt about that.
Sluman became the first player on the Champions Tour to win the same event three times since Jim Thorpe completed his hat trick in 2007 at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
|Power Rankings: Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach|
|Rank ||Player || ||Comment|
| || ||Tom |
|His bid to win back-to-back major championships fell just short but the runner-up finish at the SENIOR PLAYERS put him atop the Charles Schwab Cup points list (1,521). He also became the second player to pass the $1 million mark in earnings, joining Michael Allen. EDITOR'S NOTE: Lehman is a late withdrawal from the event.|
| || ||Jeff |
|A three-time winner of the event at Pebble Beach, he'll try to become only the third player Champions Tour history to win the same tournament four or more times, joining Hale Irwin and Jack Nicklaus. Sluman is No. 5 in Greens in Regulation (74.07 percent).|
| || ||Michael |
|Two-time winner is a California native (San Mateo) so he'll be right at home at Pebble Beach. He's No. 1 in the All-Around stat and the Money List. In all, he's top 10 in 11 statistical categories.|
| || ||Jay |
|Tied for second last year after holding the 36-hole lead. Haas has finished among the top 10 six times in seven starts at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach and has finished second three times (2004, 2006, 2011).|
| || ||Fred |
|He's hitting top gear with another top 10 at the SENIOR PLAYERS, his fourth in six starts, including a victory at the Insperity Championship. A sure sign of his resurgence is his return to the top of the Driving Accuracy category, 78.94 percent. That's his calling card.|
This week's Champions Tour Power Rankings for the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach: