Five Things to Know for Cologuard Classic
John Smoltz to make first of three starts on PGA TOUR Champions
February 25, 2019
By Bret Lasky, PGATOUR.COM
- February 25, 2019
- Braves Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz is in the field as a professional. (Getty Images)
The Cologuard Classic brings a loaded field to Tucson. The three winners this season - Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez - are all in the field. Fred Couples is also coming to Tucson to play.
The headliner this week is definitely John Smoltz, the legendary Braves pitcher, who is playing in three PGA TOUR Champions events. He'll also play in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic and the American Family Insurance Championship. Smoltz fanned 3,084 batters during his Hall-of-Fame baseball career, but always had a burning desire to play golf professionally. He gets his crack this week.
Here are Five Things to Know heading into the week.
1. John Smoltz playing as a professional this week
John Smoltz is playing on a sponsor exemption this week. He will also compete in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic (April 19-21) and the American Family Insurance Championship (June 21-23). Smoltz is good, really good. He already has a win to his name in 2019. He won the celebrity flight of the LPGA's Diamond Resort Invitational. He beat Mark Mulder by three points in the modified Stableford format. Smoltz's only prior PGA TOUR Champions start was the 2018 U.S. Senior Open Championship where he missed the cut. He shot an 85 in Round 1 and a much-improved 77 in Round 2. Smoltz, who will turn 52 in May, has been playing golf since he was 20 years old. Tucson was a good fit for Smoltz, who spent this past week at Spring Training camps for different teams to study up for his FOX and MLB Network broadcasting duties. Smoltz has a long-standing relationship with Tiger, stemming from his days in Orlando at Braves Spring Training. They've played golf together numerous times. Tiger was asked about Smoltz at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011 and heaped praise.
"I had never played with an amateur that shot the scores he did," Tiger said. "He shot 69, 67 on the same day. Not too many amateurs can do that, especially when they are playing another professional sport. It is phenomenal."
2. Bernhard Langer with another chance at 40
Bernhard Langer narrowly missed his milestone 40th victory at the Chubb Classic. He snuck into a playoff with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Olin Browne, but came up short. Only one player in the history of PGA TOUR Champions has ever reached 40 wins. Hale Irwin has 45. Langer won the Oasis Championship earlier this season and leads the Schwab Cup money list through three events. It's likely not a matter of if, but when Langer will get number 40. Last year, Omni National presented problems for Langer. He finished 54th at the Cologuard Classic, his second worst finish of the year. Eight of his nine rounds have been in the 60s this season. His only round not inthe 60s was a 70. His Round 2 scoring average through three events is a 65.67.
3. Arizona connections in the field
Tucson is home to the University of Arizona. There are two alums, Robert Gamez and David Berganio, Jr. playing on sponsor exemptions. Gamez made seven starts on PGA TOUR Champions last year in his rookie season and is making his first start this year. Meanwhile, Bergaino, Jr. is making his PGA TOUR Champions debut. He made 155 starts on the PGA TOUR including four last season. His best finish was a solo second at the 2002 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, when he lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson. Both had a tremendous amount of success in Tucson. Gamez was the 1989 National College Player of the Year and was twice an All-American while Bergaino, Jr. was a three-time All-American. Bergaino, Jr. was a key member of the 1992 Arizona Wildcats national title team. The field also includes several players that live in the state of Arizona: Michael Allen (Scottsdale), Tom Lehman (Scottsdale), Bill Mayfair (Scottsdale/Arizona State), Jerry Smith (Scottsdale), Ken Tanigawa (Scottsdale), Kirk Triplett (Scottsdale).
4. Fred Couples playing in third Cologuard Classic
Fred Couples continues to load up his schedule at the early part of the season. He did not play at Omni National last year, but is in the field for his third PGA TOUR Champions start of the early season. Couples finished T5 at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai and T8 at the Oasis Championship. He did not play in the Chubb Classic in order to compete in the Genesis Open on the PGA TOUR. He missed the cut at Riviera with rounds of 73-72. Five of his six rounds on PGA TOUR Champions this year have been under par.
5. Aaron Rodgers is playing in the pro am, Ribeiro and De La Hoya playing too
Aaron Rodgers was seen following Jerry Kelly at the season opener in Hawaii. He then teamed with Kelly at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am on the PGA TOUR. He's back with his good friend this week playing in the Cologuard Classic pro am on Wednesday. Former Packers Lynn Dickey and Ryan Longwell are also playing in the pro am. On Saturday, Alfonso Ribeiro and Oscar De La Hoya are competing in a celebrity challenge that take place around the tournament.
Bonus: 50,000 people die each year to colorectal cancer. The tournament is aiming to surpass 50,000 in total attendance at this year in efforts to raise awareness of the impact of colorectal cancer and the importance of early screening. If 50,000 fans attend the tournament and a hole-in-one is made on the 16th hole during competition, Exact Sciences, the makers of Cologuard, will make a donation totaling $500,000 benefitting both colorectal cancer research and Tucson youth athletics. The incentive is good for the first hole-in-one made on the 16th hole each day of competition. There’s a potential $1.5 million in donations, but 50,000 fans need to show up in order to make this possible.