Rookie class features a mix of all-time greats and new winners
September 04, 2020
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 04, 2020
Top-3 shots from Round 3 at Hoag Classic
The 2020 rookie class on PGA TOUR Champions has something for everyone.
It has major winners. It has international flavor. It has multiple left-handers. It has guys recognized all over the world, and guys barely recognized outside of their own homes.
And so far it has a lot of winners on the Champions Tour, a record-tying five through only nine events. It is a nearly perfect amalgam of PGA TOUR Champions: legends of the game, and guys who for whatever reason never got enough out of their games when they were younger but pointed to turning 50 as a chance to give it another go.
Since 1980, 50-year-olds have won 35.25% of PGA TOUR Champions tournaments. This year, five out of nine tournaments have been won by a 50-year-old.
Here’s a look at each of the five who has broken through in 2020. We’ll list them in order of who won first:
Brett Quigley, winner, Morocco Champions: You should know the Quigley name. Brett’s uncle Dana was a Champions Tour stalwart, and we do mean stalwart. He played in 276 consecutive Champs events, a mark that may stand forever. He also won 11 times, so there’s now 12 PGA TOUR Champions victories in the family.
Brett’s career on the PGA TOUR was short-circuited by injuries. He won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour but never on the PGA TOUR. Instead, he was around more to watch his two daughters grow up.
He credits his work as an on-course reporter for FOX as giving him a needed perspective on the game that ultimately has helped him get to where he is now, which is fourth in the Schwab Cup standings.
“What I learned from being inside the ropes and not playing was a real eye-opener for me was that I always thought you had to be perfect to win, and that’s clearly not the case,” Quigley said. “Players hit bad shots and I just think … I always had this picture of the player who wins is playing perfect golf. In golf you get so wrapped up with your own stuff and the search for getting everything right and I just ended up trying too hard.
“I'm really, really thankful I have a different perspective on it this time around.”
Ernie Els, winner, Hoag Classic: The South African legend nearly won in his first start but had to settle for winning in his third start. He also is third in the Schwab Cup standings, with four other top 10s.
Els won the Hoag by two shots after taking the lead into the final round.
"I felt a little uncomfortable on the greens,” Els said. “I didn't have that free-flowing feeling, I had to work hard for it and that's a good thing to do, to work hard for something. You don't want something falling in your lap. I'm glad the first one's over with and we can move on now and it gets more comfortable after this."
Els is riding a streak of three top-seven finishes in a row as PGA TOUR Champions heads to South Dakota next week for the Sanford International.
Jim Furyk, winner, The Ally Challenge: Furyk put an end to a streak of no one winning in his debut since Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2014.
It just happened to work out that the Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan, became the site for his Champions Tour debut. It was 3 months after his 50th birthday, but the global pandemic had pushed the schedule back. The Ally was the first event on the revamped PGA TOUR Champions schedule. It just so happened to be on a course Furyk loves. It was the home of the PGA TOUR’s Buick Open, an event he won in 2003 and had finished runner-up twice.
Furyk actually overtook Quigley on Sunday to snatch his first victory, by two shots. He has said he will begin to transition to playing more on the Champions Tour in 2021, when his own event, the Constellation Furyk & Friends, comes on board.
Shane Bertsch, winner, Charles Schwab Cup Series at Big Cedar Lodge: Bertsch, a journeyman like Quigley with Korn Ferry victories but none on the PGA TOUR, broke through in his second Champions start, just as Quigley did.
It happened in spectacular fashion, too. In a four-man playoff with Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry and Glen Day. Bertsch had a four-stroke lead going into the final round but had given it all back with a 1-over 72. But he eagled the first playoff hole, reaching the par-5 first hole in two and rolling in a downhill slider from 20 feet to earn the victory.
“This is a special one,” Bertsch said. “I’ve always had a hard time saying what my most special moment in golf is, but without a doubt it was that putt on that on the first playoff hole.”
Phil Mickelson, winner, Charles Schwab Cup Series at Ozarks National: Lefty did Lefty things in his PGA TOUR Champions debut. He surprised everyone by entering the event, which because of the strange schedule worked out during the pandemic, was contested on a Monday through Wednesday. Mickelson had been eliminated from the FedEx Cup Playoffs the previous Friday when he missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open, and he wanted to keep his game sharp for the majors to come on the PGA TOUR.
So here he was in Ridgedale, Missouri, romping to a four-shot victory over Tim Petrovic, who did all he could to stay in the vicinity of Mickelson.
“I had a lot of fun here, I really did,” Mickelson said. “I’m hopeful to play in some more, too, but I also want to use this as a way to get sharp for the regular tour and for the majors.”