A look back at 2007 on the Champions TourNovember 09, 2007
By Lauren Deason PGATOUR.com Editorial Coordinator
The 28th season on the Champions Tour is in the books after 29 official Charles Schwab Cup tournaments.
Tongues were wagging at the start of the season since the likes of Mark O'Meara, Nick Price, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and John Cook had dates to join the Champions Tour ranks throughout the season.
In the end, however, it was the two most talked-about players from 2006 who made all the headlines again in 2007. From Jay Haas' dominance at the start of the season -- he earned four wins from March to June -- to Loren Roberts' eventual return to the top by the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, 2007 triggered feelings of déjà vu.
Haas and Roberts weren't the only players with multiple wins. Brad Bryant captured a title at the Regions Charity Classic en route to his first major victory just two months later at the U.S. Senior Open Championship. Denis Watson, Tom Watson and R.W. Eaks also took two tournaments apiece.
Player of the Year Loren Roberts Jay Haas may have won four times but it was Loren Roberts who prevailed in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup points race thanks to his consistency. Roberts captured a major at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, earned a win at the Boeing Championship at Sandestin and led the Tour in Scoring Average, Putting Average and Scrambling. Still not convinced? He was amongst the top-5 finishers 13 times in 23 tournament appearances. That means 56 percent of the time he was one of the five best players for the week. Read: Roberts captures major title | And the Charles Schwab Cup goes to Roberts Rookie of the Year Fred Funk The Rookie of the Year ballot technically only includes players who have participated in at least six Champions Tour events during one season. Mark O'Meara, Nick Price and even 2006 latecomer Fred Funk qualify while rookie winners John Cook, Mark Wiebe and Bernhard Langer will be eligible next season based on their late birthday/debut dates. So I'll follow the official list and go with Funk, who has captured two Champions Tour titles, three other top-5 finishes, the all-time largest margin of victory record and a trophy on the PGA TOUR as recently as February 2007. Like a fine wine Funk keeps getting better with age. Read: Funk's 2007 record | Funk breaks records in Hawaii | Video: Watch Funk's win Comeback Player of the Year Denis Watson Hands down this award goes to Denis Watson. Not only did he capture his first title in 23 years at the Senior PGA Championship -- a major, no less -- he added another win for good measure at the Boeing Classic. Once considered a player to watch on the PGA TOUR, Watson faded for over two decades after a string of health problems, injuries and setbacks. Prior to 2007, he'd played just four times on the Champions Tour, mostly because of a shoulder surgery and rehab he endured in 2006. When you look up comeback in the dictionary, this guy's picture is right there. Read: Watson's emotional win at Kiawah Biggest Surprise Mark Wiebe There was a rookie named Mark who earned a victory on the Champions Tour this season but, much to everyone's surprise, it wasnt Mark O'Meara. Of all the heralded rookies to join the Tour in 2007 -- and believe me, there were a lot -- it was Mark Wiebe who earned the first title of the players who turned 50 in 2007, the best class in recent history. Wiebe, who'd gotten a sponsor's exemption to participate in the tournament to begin with, led the SAS Championship wire-to-wire and became just the 12th player to win in his debut. He also tied for the honor of youngest winner in Tour history. No post-win hangover for this guy as he tied for seventh in two of his three remaining starts. Read: Player Profile | Wiebe wins in Champions Tour debut Mr. Below the Radar R.W. Eaks R.W. Eaks might be the best player you haven't yet heard of. Tom Watson thinks he's something special, at least. Despite the name recognition element that drives the Champions Tour, Watson gave a shout-out to untapped stories -- like that of Eaks, winless on the PGA TOUR but a first-time and eventual two-time winner in 2007 -- that continue to generate excitement. "The beautiful thing about the Champions Tour is every year you have new names coming out plus you have the newbies, guys like R.W. Eaks, who've played very well this year," Watson said in October. "You say, 'who is R.W. Eaks?' but people in the golf world want to know who he is and if you look into it, he's a heck of a player. That's an added story to the Champions Tour." Read: Eaks' initial win at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open | Eaks captures Greater Hickory Classic Horses for Courses Award Jim Thorpe This may seem like a strange superlative, I'll grant you, but no one can deny that Jim Thorpe rules when it comes to Sonoma Golf Club. In the five years the tournament has been held there, hes won three times. Thorpe finished in the top 10 just three times in 2007 prior to his win at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, a tournament he just barely snuck into the week prior. "This particular course, it's a shame we can't play all 30 events here," Thorpe said of Sonoma Golf Club. "I could probably be a multiple winner, you know?" Read: Jim Thorpe wins in Sonoma | Video: Interview with Thorpe | Thorpe birdies No. 18 You Don't See That Everyday Moment Boeing Classic In fact, it's something youve never seen before. For the first time in the history of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour, seven players made it into a post-round playoff at the Boeing Classic. Denis Watson eagled the second hole to beat Craig Stadler, R.W. Eaks, Gil Morgan, Dana Quigley, David Eger, and Joe Ozaki. "We've done it back home, but we all had a few beers," Eaks said about the record-setting playoff. "That was fun."
With even more former PGA TOUR standouts joining the circuit next season, including Joey Sindelar, Hal Sutton and Larry Mize, today's Tour winners are starting to watch their backs. But, for now, let's take a look at some of the best moments and players on the Champions Tour this year.