By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A little more than two months ago, Jay Don Blake was a Champions Tour journeyman.
Now he’s a multiple-event winner.
Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday, the first to win the Tour’s season finale in his first appearance since Mark McNulty in 2004. He took a two-shot lead into the final round and never relinquished it, winning by two over Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts.
Add that to his win five starts ago at the Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he won a four-man playoff, and Blake ends 2011 as one of four multiple winners on Tour, joining Schwab Cup winner Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples.
“How can you pass up having a chance to play on the Champions Tour?” said Blake, who rose to fourth in Schwab Cup points and will take $200,000 from that prize pool in addition to his $440,000 share of the winner’s purse from TPC Harding Park. “I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could play out here and perform like I was able to play.”
Blake, 53, won once on the PGA TOUR, in 1991 at Torrey Pines. He cut his PGA TOUR career short of age 50 due to back pain, and for three years worked on stretching and tweaking enough to give the Champions Tour a shot.
He pieced together schedules with his partial status, qualifying for some events and relying on sponsor’s exemptions at times. What he never lost was his drive and, just as importantly, a silky putting stroke.
“He’s always been a great putter his whole life,” Allen said. “When we played in college, he was a great putter, and that’s been his game.
“You go out to dinner with someone, you want to go out to dinner with a good putter, because they’re always happy.”
Blake isn’t the type for overt displays of emotion, happy or not, but the satisfaction was clear on his face late Sunday afternoon, especially with some 20 family members and friends around to share in his win. The next stop will be the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a winners-only event.
An event for Jay Don Blake.
“I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen,” he said.
It’s now wide open.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Calcavecchia turned the Schwab Cup race into an exciting battle Sunday afternoon, one that required watching several players other than him.
But in the end it was a result he’s all too familiar with – second.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Calcavecchia needed to win or finish no worse than two-way tie for second to steal the Cup from Tom Lehman, the points leader since the second tournament of the season.
He started the final round in a tie for sixth, but on a windy day at TPC Harding Park he made a late run with a 2-under 69.
When Calcavecchia birdied the 15th hole and Jay Haas bogeyed the 13th, there was a three-way tie for second. Minutes later, Loren Roberts made it a four-way tie at 6 under with a birdie at 15. (Jay Don Blake was well in front, so winning the event wasn’t a possibility.)
Haas and Roberts continued to pour in pars, Haas making a solid save off a bad drive at 15, Roberts saving par on the par-3 17th after missing the green.
Calcavecchia’s key moment was on 18, when he hit a great drive and only had 134 yards left to the par-4. He was in between a wedge and 9-iron in switching winds, and his 9-iron ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
“I had the right distance but I never swung at it. Wind just got it,” Calcavecchia said. “If I had to do it again I’d hit a hard wedge and take my chances. I would have hit a better shot, put it that way.”
He two-putted to post 6 under, and Roberts did the same from the next group. Calcavecchia couldn’t afford another finisher at that number, but local favorite Michael Allen hit a chip close at 18 that nearly went in for birdie. In or out, Calcavecchia’s fate was sealed.
He finished second in points, 74 behind Lehman.
“It’s kind of the story of my whole career, I’ve had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls,” said Calcavecchia, who had 13 wins on the PGA TOUR and 27 seconds. On the Champions Tour, he has one win and four seconds.
“It could have been a lot better but on the other hand I had a great year. Just rattled off more top-10s than anybody.”
True – Calcavecchia had 15 top-10s to Lehman’s 12, in one more tournament. But second place Sunday was just too crowded of a place for his Schwab Cup hopes.
SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Lehman survived a game effort from Mark Calcavecchia to win the Schwab Cup while Jay Don Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday.
Blake won for the second time in two months on the Champions Tour, shooting a final-round 71 at TPC Harding Park to win by two shots.
In the season-long points race, Lehman finished T18 in the finale to open the door for Calcavecchia. But Calc needed a win or a two-way tie for second, and there turned out to be a four-way tie for second with Calc, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Allen has a chance to exorcise a pair of demons Sunday at a course that’s familiar and friendly to him.
Allen, a native of nearby San Mateo whose history at TPC Harding Park dates to his junior golf days, sits two shots back of leader Jay Don Blake at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He’s 6 under par after a third consecutive 69 and is tied with Jay Haas and David Frost.
A year ago at the Champions Tour season finale he led going into Sunday after a third-round course-record 61, but John Cook shot 67 in the final round to Allen’s 70.
That was Allen’s last runner-up finish on Tour. This year his best effort has been a pair of T3s, extending a winless drought that stretches to 2009.
Allen won his very first Tour start that year, at the Senior PGA Championship, but the second win has proved elusive.
“Getting a win is kind of big in that we all come out here to play to win. In the end, that’s why we’re here,” Allen said. “When you finally win, you kind of remember that you know how to do it.”
Allen never won in 366 PGA TOUR starts, and he’s chasing Blake, who won once in 497 TOUR starts. Blake’s win came in 1991 and he went 20 years before winning again, in September at the Songdo IBD Championship.
“Jay Don, like I have been doing, he’s been a journeyman out here playing for a long time,” Allen said. “To me, when I go out now, I have fun with it. (Sunday’s) going to be a fun day no matter what.”
The fun will be enhanced by a vocal gallery that has followed him all week, family and friends from the area and from Arizona, where he now lives.
“I feel like I’m very comfortable in this area, hopefully that vibe will carry through and I can get some good mojo out there tomorrow,” Allen said.
SAN FRANCISCO – He may not do it in style, but Tom Lehman is closing in on the Schwab Cup.
Lehman is only tied for 16th in the 30-man Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a second straight 1-over 72 at TPC Harding Park. He’s 1 over for the event.
But as long as the four other players mathematically eligible for the Cup do not win this week (or in the case of Mark Calcavecchia, win or finish second), Lehman is safe. So far, that’s the case.
John Cook, the two-time defending event champion, is tied for 20th, 11 shots back of leader Jay Don Blake. Peter Senior is tied for 24th, one behind Cook.
Russ Cochran is tied for 12th, but at seven shots back is likely too far to contend on Sunday.
That leaves Calcavecchia, who shot 1 under Saturday but lost ground on a day that allowed lower scores. He’s tied for sixth at 4 under, four shots back. If he can make a Sunday rally, the Cup could still be his.
If not, it’s Lehman’s.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A year ago, Jay Don Blake was watching the Charles Schwab Cup Championship from his couch with a Diet Coke and a doughnut. He wasn’t eligible to compete.
This year, he’s not only eligible, he’s in the driver’s seat to possibly win.
Blake shot a 5-under 66 at TPC Harding Park Saturday in Round 3 to take over the top spot on the leaderboard, two shots clear of local favorite Michael Allen, David Frost and Jay Haas.
His round included five birdies and no bogeys.
“Just kind of what you want to do around here is try to eliminate the big mistakes. I did that pretty well,” Blake said.
A win Sunday would be the biggest of Blake’s career, and on the Champions Tour would lift him into another stratosphere of players – multiple-event winners. Not bad for a player who two months ago wasn’t even fully exempt on Tour.
Blake has held the journeyman’s label his entire career, winning just once on the PGA TOUR, at the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open at Torrey Pines. He was a regular on Tour from 1987 to 2004, then walked away well before age 50 due to persistent back pain.
“I couldn’t practice like I wanted to or perform like I felt like I should be able to,” said Blake, a Utah native. “I thought, I’ve got to back away, try to analyze my life, see what I’ve got going on. I finally decided to just get some help and get it taken care of.”
Blake never had back surgery, but spent three years stretching and manipulating his back and pelvic area into shape. He then gave it a go on the 50-and-over circuit, and had to fight and scratch for his place on Tour.
He finished eighth at the 2008 q-school, which made him conditionally exempt. He played 12 events in 2009 including three off open qualifiers, with a best finish of T4 at the Regions Charity Classic, at which he had a sponsor’s exemption.
In 2010 he played 15 events, four off qualifiers, and earned temporary exempt status from the reshuffle along the way. He had a third-place finish at the Senior Open Championship and finished 34th on the money list.
That still didn’t earn him a fully exempt spot on Tour. He sat in a golf cart on the first tee at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as a first alternate, and also missed the Toshiba Classic and U.S. Senior Open. All the while though he was playing well, losing in a playoff to John Cook at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am and piling up top-10s.
Finally, at the Songdo IBD Championship in mid-September, he won.
“It’s given me quite a bit of confidence, knowing that I feel like I belong and I can win out here,” Blake said. “I feel like I got to work hard to do that. It’s nice to have that win and then see if you can add to that.”
He’ll see on Sunday, playing in the final group with Jay Haas.
SAN FRANCISCO – Jay Don Blake, winless on the Champions Tour coming into this season, now has a chance for a second win in less than two months at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Blake, who won in a playoff at the Songdo IBD Championship, leads by two shots (8 under) at TPC Harding Park after a 5-under 66 in the third round. Michael Allen, David Frost and Jay Haas are two shots back at 6 under, and Loren Roberts is 5 under after the week’s low round (65).
Fred Couples, who co-led with Allen and Frost after two rounds, had two double bogeys on the back nine and shot 74, falling into a tie for 12th at 1 under. Playing partner Mark Calcavecchia shot 70 and is 4 under, needing to finish first or second to have a shot at the Schwab Cup.
Tom Lehman, the Schwab Cup points leader, shot 72 and is tied for 16th. He still projects to win the Cup based on the leaderboard through three rounds.