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.
Most weeks, Damon Green is caddying for Zach Johnson on the PGA TOUR. This week, he’s on the other end of the bag in the final stage of Champions Tour q-school at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla.
Through the first of four rounds, Green shares the lead at 4 under with Bobby Clampett after each shot 68 on Tuesday.
Green played in two Champions Tour events this season, finishing 73rd in the Principal Charity Classic and tying for 17th in the U.S. Senior Open.
Clampett, meanwhile, had 20 starts on the over-50 circuit with four top 10s, including a tie for fourth in the Insperity Championship presented by United Healthcare in what was his best finish of the year. He finished the year 39th in the Schwab Cup standings.
Esteban Toledo and Neal Lancaster are a shot back, while Lance Ten Broeck is among a group of 10 players tied for fifth at 2 under.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In his home game, Tom Lehman claimed all the hardware at the Champions Tour’s season finale.
Lehman won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship by a whopping six shots at Desert Mountain’s Cochise Course with a final-round 5-under 65, in the process leapfrogging Bernhard Langer to win the Charles Schwab Cup. He’s the first player to win the season-long race two years in a row.
Langer finished sixth.
Lehman started the final round ahead by one over Fred Couples, then birdied the second and third holes to establish a cushion that was never threatened. He won for the second time on the year, having won the Regions Tradition during the summer.
In winning the Schwab Cup, Lehman will likely win Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Last year when he won POY, he became the first win the award on the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour.
Langer, Fred Funk and Loren Roberts were among the players at the 18th green congratulating Lehman on his great week.
Tom Watson was the only other player to win the season finale while also winning the Schwab Cup, in 2005.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tom Lehman hasn’t made a bogey since the first round at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. If that streak continues, he’s going to take it all at Desert Mountain.
Lehman is 2 under on his final round through the front nine and leads by four over Fred Couples and Jay Haas. If he wins the event, he’ll leapfrog Bernhard Langer and win the Schwab Cup for the second consecutive year. No one has ever won the Cup in back-to-back years.
Bernhard Langer is having one of the best rounds on the course, 4 under through 13 holes, but as long as Lehman leads the event, there’s nothing he can do to protect the top spot in points that he owned coming to Desert Mountain. He’s currently in solo sixth place.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Starting 11 shots out of the lead on Sunday, Bernhard Langer’s chances of winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship are virtually zero.
But the season-long points race isn’t out of the question, not the way he has started his final round at Desert Mountain.
The 2010 Schwab Cup champion birdied the third and fourth hole at the Cochise Course to get to 8 under, but more importantly into a tie for seventh on the leaderboard. The closer he gets to Tom Lehman – provided Lehman does not take his third-round lead to the finish line – the better chance he has of winning the season-long prize.
Langer came into the week 211 points in front of Lehman, but there’s plenty of volatility at the season finale with double points at stake. If Lehman finishes second and Langer can climb into solo or a two-way tie for fourth – and he’s three shots behind fourth at the moment – Langer takes the $1 million prize.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There’s one round yet to play, but the engraver may be able to start etching Tom Lehman’s name on the Schwab Cup for the second consecutive year.
Lehman took the lead at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Saturday, shooting 8-under 62 to get to 17 under, one shot ahead of Fred Couples. He came into the week second in Schwab Cup points but can leapfrog Bernhard Langer with a win.
The Schwab Cup can also be Lehman’s with a top-5 finish and a below-average finish for Langer, and through three rounds at Desert Mountain, Langer isn’t as sharp as usual. The 2010 Schwab Cup champion had three consecutive bogeys late to shoot even, and he’s 6 under in a tie for 10th, 11 shots behind Lehman.
“I got it going for a little bit in the middle of the round, actually hit some really good shots for a stretch and didn’t get much out of it, then didn’t play very smart coming in,” Langer said.
It’s not over, but Langer appears to need one of the rounds of 60 to 62 that have been seen this week on the Cochise Course.
“That’s gotta be my mindset tomorrow, pretty much go at everything,” Langer said. “At this point it doesn’t matter if I drop further back, I need to make a move forward. Need a low one to make up some ground, to have any hope.”
Otherwise, the Schwab Cup will have its first back-to-back champion in Lehman.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Charles Schwab Cup Championship is looking like a three-man battle.
Fred Couples has joined the party, using a birdie-eagle run at Nos. 14 and 15 and to get to 15 under, tied for the lead with Jay Haas. Couples is 7 under on his round, one day after he played with Haas and was witness to a 60.
Haas is just 1 under on the day, but hanging around. Tom Lehman is 5 under on the day and one shot back at 14 under. If he can win the tournament, he’s assured of a second consecutive Schwab Cup title. But where he is now (third) and where points leader Bernhard Langer is (T12, 10 shots back) also would hand the Cup to Lehman.
After Couples, Haas and Lehman is a four-shot gap to Jay Don Blake at 10 under. The first-round leader bounced back from a poor Friday with a 65 on Saturday.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tom Lehman is putting himself in position to leave town with two trophies.
The defending Charles Schwab Cup champion is 5 under on his third round at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and has reeled in playing partner Jay Haas. Haas led by five after his sparkling 60 on Friday but is just even par in Round 3. The two are tied at 14 under through 11 holes.
Lehman came to Desert Mountain in second in the Schwab Cup race but can steal the lead from Bernhard Langer with a win. Langer is 1 under through 13, seven shots off the pace. He saved par after missing the green at the par-3 13th hole but needs birdies to climb from his T8 position.
Fred Couples is two shots off the lead at 12 under.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With his notoriously balky back, Fred Couples hadn’t completed an event on the Champions Tour since winning the Senior British Open in late July.
He withdrew from the Boeing Classic in August, and wasn’t seen again on Tour until this week at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
The rest apparently has done him some good, and there’s no rust. Couples is at 12 under through 10 holes on Moving Day at Desert Mountain, tied with Tom Lehman and three shots behind Jay Haas. He’s 4 under on his round after an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole and two birdies.
Only Jay Don Blake has a hotter round going on Saturday. The first-round leader shot 71 on Friday but is trying to crawl back into contention. He’s at 10 under.
Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer is in a tie for eighth at 7 under and projects to fall out of the points lead.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jay Haas isn’t perfect after all.
One day after his Champions Tour-record-tying 60 at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Haas bogeyed his third hole in Round 3. He’s even through five holes at Desert Mountain but at 14 under and holding a three-shot lead over playing partner Tom Lehman.
Lehman is 2 under and sitting well in his chase to overtake Bernhard Langer for the Schwab Cup title. The defending champion in the year-long race needs at least a top 5 to be in the conversation and is doing his part. If he doesn’t win he needs help from Langer, and Langer is stuck at even through eight holes and 10th on the leaderboard. That combination would hand the Schwab Cup to Lehman.
Fred Couples is in third at 10 under.