By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Hawaii is home to the start of the Champions Tour as well and next week 40 seniors will tee it up in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, on the Big Island.
Two will have a head start.
Russ Cochran qualified for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting 67 in 40-mph gusts at Turtle Bay Monday. An 8-foot eagle putt on his final hole Friday gave him a second straight 68 and leaves him at 4-under 136 going into the weekend.
Fred Funk, who won Mitsubishi in 2008, was on the bubble Friday afternoon after an opening round 70. He was fourth on the Champions money list last year after winning two events.
Bart Bryant, who just turned 50 and will make his Champions debut later this year, is also playing at Waialae Country Club this week. After shooting 67 Friday he goes into the weekend a shot ahead of Cochran.
Cochran came to Hawaii to visit a friend on Kauai and made a last-minute decision to try the qualifier. While “missing my own vacation,” he made the turn in 4 under Thursday, but admits to backing off a bit since.
“It’s a big deal for me to make the cut,” said Cochran, who has won three senior titles since turning 50. “If you make the cut you go on a list and the tournaments that don’t fill up like Puerto Rico you have a chance to get in. It’s a nice thing, but it made me play very tentatively.
“At the same time, it kept me hitting the ball to the right side of the hole and I got the ball in the hole well. I didn’t play particularly well yesterday or most of today, but I hung in there.”
Two years ago he opened with a career-best, 10-under-par 62 at Hualalai. After this week, he should be ready to go low again.
“I know if nothing else standing over these putts and getting the feel of walking the course and hitting shots and working it in the wind is a big deal,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s son Ryan, who played at Florida, is on his bag this week. His youngest son Case is now at Texas A&M. Dad keeps seeing familiar faces at
Waialae this week, while he works on coming back from an injury-interrupted 2012.
“The odd thing about this is two or three of the guys out here this week are guys my sons played with,” Cochran said. “There are lot of guys out here I saw playing junior golf. It’s really interesting, really fun to see the progress.”
Winners from the last two years are eligible for Mitsubishi, along with major champions from the past five years and eight exemptions.
Those exemptions went to Ben Crenshaw, Steve Elkington, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Larry Nelson, Craig Stadler, Cutis Strange and Jim Thorpe.
Along with Funk and Cochran, other qualifiers include 2012 Player of the Year Tom Lehman, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, Fred Couples, who led the Champions Tour in scoring average, Bernhard Langer, who led the money list, and defending champion Dan Forsman.
Mitsubishi starts the 2013 Champions Tour season next Friday.
Russ Cochran will make his 599th career PGA TOUR start this week at Waialae. (Shamus/Getty Images)
By Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM Contributing Writer
Danny Lee fired a 7-under 65 to earn medalist honors in the Sony Open Monday qualifier held at Turtle Bay Palmer Course in Kahuku, Hawaii.
Russ Cochran (67), Steven Alker (69) and Josh Persons (70) also earned their way into this week's Sony Open field. Persons earned the final spot by beating out three other players in a playoff.
Lee, a 22-year-old native of Seoul, South Korea, won the U.S. Amateur in 2008 at Pinehurst and followed that up by winning the Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour in 2009.
Last season, Lee's best finish came on the Web.com Tour with a runner-up finish at the WNB Golf Classic.
The 54-year-old Cochran has been playing exclusively on the Champions Tour, where he has three career wins – including the Senior British Open Championship in 2011. The University of Kentucky graduate and former member of the PGA TOUR captured the Western Open over two decades ago in 1991.
Cochran posted six top-10s on the Champions Tour in 2012.
Alker, a 41-year-old New Zealander, who posted a top 20 finish at the 2012 Open Championship (T19) at Royal Lytham St. Anne, owns two career Web.com victories (the 2002 Louisiana Chitimacha Open and 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship).
Persons is playing his first PGA TOUR event and made the cut in all three Web.com Tour appearances in 2012 – including a T8 at the Neediest Kids Championship where he also gained entry as a Monday qualifier.
The 28-year-old of Fargo, N.D. native and former golfer at Kansas State has spent most of his professional career on the mini-tours.
Check out the top five shots from the JT Shriners Hospitals and SAS Championship featuring Russ Cochran, Robert Garrigus, Ryan Moore, and Jimmy Walker.
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 – Tom Lehman is still projected to win the Schwab Cup, but Round 2 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship showed it won’t be a walkover.
Mark Calcavecchia shot 68 at TPC Harding Park, tied for the low round of the day, to climb into a tie for fourth at 3 under behind Michael Allen, Fred Couples, David Frost.
Calcavecchia is second in Schwab Cup points and needs a combination of a win and a Lehman T2 or worse, or a runner-up with Lehman at T12 or worse.
Lehman is tied for 11th after a second-round 72. Calcavecchia said he’s not noticing – yet.
“He’s hanging around. He’ll be there at the end,” Calcavecchia said. “I’m not going to pay attention to him or David Frost or anybody else. There’s two rounds left. We’ll see what happens with the weather.”
Calcavecchia’s first two rounds have been an adventure. Thursday he shot a 71 that he said could have been a 75 or 76, were it not for a good putter. Friday’s 68, which included a holeout eagle, he said could have been a 65 had that same putter returned.
Friday he put a new Ping G20 driver in his bag, overnighted from the company after the first round. On the 10th tee Thursday he hit a bizarre drive that was heading deep into the parking lot before hitting a tree.
“I thought the head was loose, but it’s probably my head that’s loose,” Calcavecchia said to laughter in the media center. “Threw a new one in the bag and drove it great.”
The other three players who came into the week mathematically eligible to take the Schwab Cup with a win don’t appear likely to pull it off. Peter Senior (third in points) is tied for 24th at 5 over, John Cook (fourth) is tied for 21st at 4 over and Russ Cochran (fifth) is tied for 14th at 1 over.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Coming into the Champions Tour’s final event, it was going to take a minor miracle for Tom Lehman to be beat in the race for the Schwab Cup.
Through one round at TPC Harding Park, that looks unlikely.
Four pursuers have to essentially win the event and hope Lehman falters, and Thursday’s play showed that the points leader isn’t going anywhere. Lehman shot 1-under 70, one of just seven players in red numbers on a cold, windy and rainy Bay Area day. He’s two shots back of leaders Fred Couples and Jay Haas, who shot 68s.
Mark Calcavecchia and Peter Senior, second and third in the points race, shot even-par 71s. Russ Cochran, fifth in points, shot 74.
Perhaps most surprising, two-time defending champion John Cook (fourth in points) shot 73. In winning this event the previous two years, Cook shot eight straight rounds in the 60s. Over those two years he made four bogeys in all – he had four bogeys in his first six holes on Thursday.
Lehman came into the week leading by 382 points over Calcavecchia. His projected lead after Round 1 is 475 points over Calcavecchia.