Tour Insider: Season climax approachingOctober 02, 2013
By Vartan Kupelian, Champions Tour Insider
History repeats on the Champions Tour. It’s important to keep that in mind going forward as the 2013 season reaches a climax.
Kirk Triplett proved it once again when he captured the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach last week. Triplett has won twice on the Champions Tour and both victories have come at Pebble Beach.
Three events remain before the finale at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, at TPS Harding Park. After this week off, the Champions Tour returns for two events in North Carolina, beginning with the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. The SAS Championship is followed by the Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn in Conover.
The AT&T Championship is Oct. 25-27 at TPC San Antonio.
Those three events will impact two races and go a long way in setting up the final scene in San Francisco.
The first step is the race to the top 30 on the money list and qualification for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Rookie Steve Elkington is on the bubble at No. 30. Senior PGA Champion Kohki Idoki is a spot ahead of Elkington by less than $4,000. Elkington leads No. 31 Rod Spittle by just over $20,000 with Loren Roberts at No. 32 and trailing Elkington by more than $40,000. Roberts is a two-time Charles Schwab Cup champion in 2007 and 2009.
Spittle, Roberts, John Riegger, Scott Hoch and John Huston need big finishes to reach TPC Harding Park. History is on Huston’s side. He finished T10 last year behind winner Bernhard Langer at the SAS Championship after a runner-up finish in 2011 when Kenny Perry was the winner. Golfers flourish in familiar and comfortable settings, and Huston could be poised to make a move.
Ironically, Perry and Langer are 1-2 on the Charles Schwab Cup points list so they’ll also be in a comfort zone at the SAS Championship.
Roberts’ bid could be buoyed by his T9 last year at Rock Barn.
Dan Forsman can feel good about his chances, too. He is No. 28 on the money list thanks to a runner-up finish at Pebble Beach – his best of the year. It moved him up from No. 35 on the list. Forsman will take his positive play into Rock Barn, where he tied for fourth last year.
Among this year’s winners on the Champions Tour, only John Riegger (No. 33) and Brad Faxon (No. 36) are out of the top 30. Riegger, a rookie, won the Boeing Classic. He has been limited to only nine events since celebrating his 50th birthday in June. Faxon won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf with partner Jeff Sluman in April.
In the race for the Charles Schwab Cup and the $1 million bonus, Perry remains in charge. He took control with back-to-back major championship wins at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Senior Open. Those followed a runner-up finish at the Senior PGA Championship. The three-event sequence, all with double points at stake, thrust Perry to the top by a wide margin ahead of Langer and David Frost.
With the season winding down, those three players remain at the top. Perry has 2,760 points, and leads Langer by 669 points. Frost is third (1,786) followed by Duffy Waldorf (1,569) and Fred Couples (1,545).
The top three have to be feeling good about their chances – Perry to keep his lead, Langer and Frost to cut into it - because they’ll be on friendly turf.
Langer won the SAS Championship last year. Perry had a top 10 there – with a tie for sixth. At Rock Barn a year ago, Langer and Frost both added top 10 finishes.
At the AT&T Championship, all three were in the mix. Frost and Langer finished 1-2. Perry finished T9 at TPC San Antonio.
Langer has missed several opportunities to make inroads into Perry’s lead, squandering opportunities for victories with poor finishes. In the First Tee Open, after an opening 64 at Del Monte, he shot 74-74 at Pebble Beach. At the Montreal Championship, a final round 75 cost him a chance to close ground on the Charles Schwab Cup points leader.
Willie Wood is another player making a late bid to reach the top 30. After not posting a top 10 finish in his first 19 events, Wood, twice a winner in 2012, earned his second top 10 in three starts when he finished T6 at Pebble Beach. Two weeks ago he was T9 at the Montreal Championship. Wood moved from No. 51 to No. 42 with his performance at Pebble Beach.
Last year, Wood won a total of just over $111,000 combined at the SAS Championship, Rock Barn and AT&T, where he tied for fifth and won nearly $81,000. He’ll need to do even better this year to move into the top 30.
A year ago, the player in the No. 30 spot had earned $516,619 heading into the season finale. That was after just 23 events. This year there are two additional tournaments on the schedule. So far, through 22 events, 26 players have surpassed that figure.