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 – John Cook’s bid to become the first three-peat winner of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship was essentially over before it started.
Cook had four bogeys total in his previous two wins, last year at TPC Harding Park and the year prior at Sonoma Golf Club. In Round 1, he had four bogeys in his first six holes.
“Just a tough start, the weather got bad and I didn’t really do much,” Cook said. “Next thing you knew, I was 4 over after six and I hadn’t really done anything wrong. It was just catch-up after that.”
He shot 73 that first day, tied for 17th, and was never a factor from that point. He duplicated the 73 in Round 2, a tough day for scoring, then shot 70-71 over the weekend. He was tied for 20th when he signed his scorecard Sunday.
Cook came to TPC Harding Park as a longshot contender for the Schwab Cup at fourth in points, but needed to win the event and hope Tom Lehman finished T5 or worse. His season had plenty of highs, including wins at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am and the Montreal Championship, but he lost in a playoff in a bid for his first major at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship.
Cook also had two finishes of 50th or worse later in the season, when Schwab Cup points for top-10s was what he dearly needed.
“I had really, really good weeks, and some weeks that were very mediocre,” Cook said. “(Lehman) had tons of top-10s and wins and winning majors, and that’s what you have to do.”
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.
SAN FRANCISCO – There may be a race for the Charles Schwab Cup after all.
Tom Lehman, who came into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship with a 382-point lead, was right where he needed to be after Round 1, tied for fifth with his pursuers all behind. But the points leader double bogeyed the first hole Friday. He birdied the next, but sits at even par for the tournament, tied for 13th.
His closest pursuer in the points, Mark Calcavecchia, is 4 under for the day and the tournament, making three birdies and an eagle on the par-4 seventh hole on his front nine, offset by one bogey. He’s tied for the lead with Jay Haas.
Calcavecchia can win the Schwab Cup if he wins the event and Lehman finishes T2 or worse. He can also win by finishing second if Lehman finishes T12 or worse.
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.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Fred Couples’ notoriously bad back, contrary to what many would believe, isn’t necessarily susceptible to cold weather.
“I like it,” he said Wednesday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. “I’ve said this every single time someone asks me. I’m stiff all the time. Why not let (the field) be stiff too if it’s 45 or 50 degrees?”
In the first round at TPC Harding Park, it’s plenty cold enough, with intermittent wind and rain. And look who’s atop the leaderboard – Couples, at 5 under through 10 holes, three shots ahead of Kenny Perry.
Tom Lehman, the leader in the season-long points race, is 1 under through eight holes and tied for fifth. None of the four other players in contention for the $1 million annuity are making a move so far – Mark Calcavecchia is 1 over, Peter Senior is even and John Cook, the two-time defending champion, is near the bottom of the leaderboard at 4 over through nine. He bogeyed four of his first six holes.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Make it three in a row for the long putters. First Adam Scott (World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational), then Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), then Webb Simpson at last week’s Wyndham Championship.
Is this newsworthy anymore? Might not be for long (pardon the pun) when you consider players like Simpson. He wasn’t someone that picked up a belly putter looking for answers on the green well into his PGA TOUR career, like Scott and others.
His move dates to far before that.
“I switched the fall of my freshman year (at Wake Forest),” said Simpson, who wields a Ping Craz-E model. “It’s been seven years now I've used the same putter and, you know, it seems like a lot more guys are using it.
“I think you're seeing younger guys use it, more guys use it and I don't know what it is for the other guys. For me I just like it better. I putt differently with it and I've never really found anything I like better.”
With the recent run of wins, the discussion has been re-ignited about whether such putters should have been made illegal years ago, or should be made illegal now. Do they provide an unfair competitive advantage?
Phil Mickelson says no.
“I think that there's more to it than just starting the ball online and putting. You have to read the green correctly,” Mickelson said Wednesday at The Barclays. “You have to start the ball online, which the belly putter I think really helps, but you also have to have the right speed.
“And if it were going to be banned, it should have happened 20‑plus years ago. But now that it's been legal, I don't think you can make it retroactive. There have been guys that have been working with that putter for years, if not decades.”
In Simpson’s case, seven years.
In the middle of talking belly putters ... the Earth moved.
SHAKING: Perhaps Mother Nature dislikes the long putters. In the middle of Jim Furyk’s press conference Tuesday at The Barclays – while he was discussing belly putter tips he got from Bradley – the Earth moved. Check it out on the right.
MIXED BAG: It’s not uncommon for pros to mix and match clubs in the bag come tournament days, but Tom Lehman’s is quite the spectacle. At the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, Lehman carried a Cobra K forged 3-iron, a TaylorMade RAC prototype 4-iron, TaylorMade Tour Preferred 5- and 8-irons, a Tour Preferred Muscle Back 6-iron, Tour Burner 7-iron and Tour Preferred Muscle Cavity 9-iron and pitching wedge.
That’s six different models from two manufacturers in one iron set. Oh, and he also had Titleist Vokey wedges. A very mixed bag but he’s doing something right – Lehman leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
TWO GLOVES, ONE DRIVER: Tommy Gainey finished third at the Wyndham with a new driver, a Callaway 10.5-degree Diablo Octane Tour. He was sixth in driving distance for the week with a 313.4-yard average. Earlier in the year he used a TaylorMade R11.