Couples, Pavin set for official Champions Tour debut

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Fred Couples turned 50 last October.
January 06, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

KA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Eight of golf's most accomplished players -- Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Bruce Lietzke, Mark O'Meara, Corey Pavin, Gary Player and Curtis Strange -- have accepted sponsor exemptions and will compete in the Champions Tour's season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

The tournament is the first of 26 official Champions Tour events for 2010 and will be held for the 14th straight year at the Jack Nicklaus designed Hualalai Golf Course in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii on January 19-24. The eight invitees will join a field of eligible players featuring winners of Champions Tour major championships in the last five years and winners of Champions Tour co-sponsored events which awarded official money in the past two years.

By accepting the invitations, Couples and Pavin are scheduled to make their first official Champions Tour start on Hawaii's Big Island. Couples, a 15-time PGA TOUR winner who earned a Green Jacket with his 1992 Masters title, became eligible for the Champions Tour a week prior to captaining the U.S. Presidents Cup team to victory at San Francisco's Harding Park in early October.

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Pavin, who turned 50 on November 16, has collected 27 international titles during his career including the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. A 15-time PGA TOUR winner and three-time Ryder Cup team member, Pavin will serve as captain of the U.S. squad when the 38th Ryder Cup heads to Celtic Manor in Wales, Sept. 28-Oct. 3.

World Golf Hall of Fame member Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion (1984 & 1995), will make his fourth appearance at the event. The Texan, nicknamed "Gentle Ben," joined the Champions Tour in 2002 after a successful career on the PGA TOUR highlighted by 19 wins. Still in search of his first Champions Tour title, Crenshaw was a member of three U.S. Ryder Cup teams and captained the 1999 squad to the greatest comeback in history, overcoming a 10-6 deficit on the final day.

The most accomplished player in Champions Tour history, Irwin has collected 45 wins and over $25 million in official prize money since joining the Tour in 1995. A 20-time winner on the PGA TOUR with three U.S. Open titles, 64-year-old Irwin was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992. He has been a fan favorite on the Champions Tour over the last 15 years, winning seven major championships and the season-long Charles Schwab Cup twice (2002 & 2004). He will make his 15th straight appearance at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai where he has earned two titles (1997 & 2007) for a total of eight career victories in the Aloha State.

Lietzke is a 13-time winner on the PGA TOUR with seven Champions Tour titles. His two-stroke victory over Tom Watson at the 2003 U.S. Senior Open gained him the eligibility for a sponsor's exemption into this year's field, where he will make his ninth appearance.

O'Meara has enjoyed a successful career highlighted by 16 PGA TOUR wins and a pair of major championship wins in 1998 at the Masters and British Open. Entering his fourth season on the Champions Tour, O'Meara has yet to post a victory but has logged eight runner-up finishes and a total of 19 top-10s. He will be making his first appearance at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

As the game's most successful international player in history, 74-year old Player is a World Golf Hall of Fame member who owns 163 titles across the globe. The South African stalwart has 15 major championship wins (9 on PGA TOUR, 6 on Champions Tour) and credits his notoriously rigorous fitness routine for his ability to win across five decades. He will make his 11th appearance at the event where his best finish was solo 10th in 1999.

Strange, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007, will make his fourth appearance at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. The winner of back-to-back U.S. Opens (1988-89) has logged a total of 17 PGA TOUR victories in his career.

The sponsor invitation category allows up to eight exemptions to be granted to players who have a minimum of 30 combined PGA TOUR/Champions Tour victories or players with a minimum of 15 career combined victories who also have at least one major championship victory. The addition of the eight invitees brings the field to a total of 38 players.

The Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai will air live on the GOLF CHANNEL Friday, January 22 from 6:30-9:00 pm ET and 7:30-10:00 pm ET on Saturday and Sunday, January 23-24.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 800-417-2770.