Ten things to know into restart at The Ally Challenge
July 20, 2020
By Jackie Servais, PGATOUR.COM
- July 20, 2020
- Ernie Els already has a win in 2020 at the Hoag Classic. (Getty Images)
With the return of PGA TOUR Champions on the horizon, here is a quick look at where we left off and what’s to come. From Ernie Els’ strong start, to Mike Weir’s debut to Bernhard Langer’s Charles Schwab Cup lead, once again, here are the top 10 highlights from the 2020 season and what you won’t want to miss when the Tour returns at The Ally Challenge.
10. Ernie Els enters the race early
In his rookie season on PGA TOUR Champions, Ernie Els got off to a hot start when he entered a three-man playoff at the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. When Fred Couples missed a putt for par on the first playoff hole, Els went head-to-head for one final hole with Miguel Angel Jimenez. Els missed a birdie putt and Jimenez claimed the prize. However, Els’ second-place finish marked his first top-five finish in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in over three years. In his most recent start at the Hoag Classic, Els emerged from a crowded leaderboard on Sunday to win for the first time since 2013 and became the 30th World Golf Hall of Fame member to win on PGA TOUR Champions. He ranks No. 3 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings and one player you will want to keep an eye on as he is sure to give No. 1 Bernhard Langer a run for his money the remainder of the 2020 season.
9. Rookies on the rise
Speaking of rookie seasons, remember when nephew of 11-time PGA TOUR Champions winner Dana Quigley, Brett Quigley won the Morocco Champions in just his second start on PGA TOUR Champions? I do. He came from three strokes back to card a final round 66, securing the victory by one-stroke over Stephen Ames. Quigley followed his success with two top-10 finishes at the next two events and enters The Ally Challenge No. 2 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
Following Quigley’s win, Robert Karlsson and Tim Herron made their debuts at the Chubb Classic. Karlsson quickly took to PGA TOUR Champions posting a top 25 finish his first week followed by an eighth-place finish at the Cologuard Classic and T2 at the Hoag Classic. Karlsson returns to play at No. 11 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
8. Fitness in free time
Many of us have had an abundance of free time given the current landscape of the world and it came at a moment’s notice. Some filled the time baking banana bread, while others bettered their bodies. Guys like Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie will return to play next week having chosen the latter. Singh has taken to Facebook live workouts in an effort to be transparent and guide others in their home workouts, while Montgomerie avoided the banana bread and in turn lost 40 pounds in four months. His improved diet and virtual Pilates classes makes him nearly unrecognizable (see for yourself!).
Singh hasn’t played on PGA TOUR Champions since the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, but seven starts on the PGA TOUR in 2020 has kept his game in play. On the other hand, Montgomerie finished each of his four PGA TOUR Champions appearances in the top 25.
Two vastly different quarantine approaches from two vastly different players, but which method will better their game when it comes time to play?
7. Two majors remain
Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, three of five PGA TOUR Champions majors were canceled for the 2020 season, however the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS and Regions Tradition remain in play. The Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS in Akron, Ohio has taken the place of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open August 10-16 and will be the second event back, following The Ally Challenge. The Regions Tradition was moved from May 4-10 to September 24-30. Two majors remain with two major names in line to defend their titles. Retief Goosen and Steve Stricker are both looking to successfully defend a major title for the first time on PGA TOUR Champions, as Goosen will look to defend the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS and Stricker at The Regions Tradition.
6. Jimenez may be interesting, BUT he’s also incredibly good at golf
Since 2014, Miguel Angel Jimenez has claimed a title each of his seven years on PGA TOUR Champions. In 2020, he began the season with a two-hole playoff victory defeating Ernie Els and Fred Couples. From there, he finished the four previous events T33 or better. He will return to play off a T5 finish at the Cologuard Classic, a T13 finish at the Hoag Classic and an impressive 36-hole lead at the Australian Open in early July.
5. Newcomers on PGA TOUR Champions
Since the pause of PGA TOUR Champions, four key players have become eligible to compete on PGA TOUR Champions: Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, K.J. Choi, and Phil Mickelson. Eight-time PGA TOUR winners Weir and Choi are expected to make their PGA TOUR Champions debut at The Ally Challenge. Weir hasn’t played since the 2019 Bermuda Championship in November, while Choi has seen four PGA TOUR starts in 2020. Weir has played in five Korn Ferry Tour events in 2020 including three since play resumed. Remember when Choi won The 2011 PLAYERS Championship in a playoff over David Toms? I don’t know about you, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing those two battle it out again, but this time at the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
4. Kelly’s Title Defense x2
Jerry Kelly owns six victories in four years on PGA TOUR Champions. Three of these wins came in the 2019 season for his first three-win season on any PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour. With the American Family Insurance Championship canceled, he is left to defend titles at The Ally Challenge and the SAS Championship. Kelly will be the first PGA TOUR Champions player with a title defense opportunity since play was paused and odds are in his favor as he has continued to keep his game sharp. He competed at the Workday Charity Classic, making his 400th cut on the PGA TOUR.
3. Charles Schwab Cup changes
With the announcement of a combined 2020-21 season for PGA TOUR Champions, the next Charles Schwab Cup champion will be crowned in November 2021. This means the 2020 Charles Schwab Cup Playoff events will be converted into 81-player fields and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship will be reduced from 72 to 54 holes. When play paused, Bernhard Langer held the No. 1 position in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, no surprise there, but the surprise will come if he is able to maintain that position with a combined season.
2. Langer’s lengthy run
Speaking of Bernhard Langer’s Charles Schwab Cup success, he’s been chasing the all-time wins record, just four shy of Hale Irwin’s impressive 45 wins. Langer won the Cologuard Classic in February to mark his 41st victory and eighth win at age 60 or older. He has won 10 tournaments at least twice and successfully defended four titles. Three tournaments remain in the 2020 schedule that Irwin and Langer have both won: Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS, PURE Insurance Championship and SAS Championship, but will he use these final events to catch Irwin or are the stacked fields going to make it harder to do so?
1.The Fields are stacked
As PGA TOUR Champions returns to play, one thing is certain – the players are hungry to play, which means the fields are stacked. As of July 20, The Ally Challenge field will consist of 81 total players, 54 PGA TOUR winners with a combined 349 PGA TOUR wins, and 15 PGA TOUR major winners. Competitors such as Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Mike Weir, K.J. Choi, and of course, 2019 Charles Schwab Cup champion, Scott McCarron are expected to compete at Warwick Hills.