PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Five things to watch as major season begins
May 16, 2018
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- May 16, 2018
- Bernhard Langer is coming off a win, and this week is the two-time defending champion at the Regions Tradition. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Major season means different things on PGA TOUR Champions than it does on the PGA TOUR.
It’s a sprint on the Champions circuit, with all five majors contested in a span of seven events over 11 weeks, starting Thursday at the Regions Tradition at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama. That also makes it a grind, because the majors are four rounds, and the first two are conducted over consecutive weeks.
It also features the three richest purses on PGA TOUR Champions. Guys can secure their futures – on the tour and financially – with wins in any of these five events.
This is the meat of the schedule. Who is ready to sink his teeth into it? Since there are five majors; here are five observations based on what has transpired already this season and in previous majors:
1. Langer looks like Langer
For any player looking to get his major season off on the right foot, he should look to beat Bernhard Langer at the Regions. His worst finish there in the past six years is a tie for 10th. He is the two-time defending champ.
As if that wasn’t enough, he’s back to himself this season after a surprisingly rocky start. After just one top 10 in his first five events he now has four in a row, including his first victory of 2018 at the Insperity Invitational. His recent tear has put him in a familiar place – atop the Schwab Cup standings.
2. Stricker returns to Tradition
The Regions Tradition is the only major Steve Stricker played in as a rookie in 2017. Here’s the interesting thing: It also is the only event in 10 starts on PGA TOUR Champions in which the Wisconsin native has finished outside the top eight.
Stricker had some trouble finding his rhythm at Greystone a year ago. He didn’t crack 70 until a final-round 66 vaulted him 15 spots into a tie for 13th.
Expect Stricker to be in contention this year because he has been in every event he has played. His worst finish in four events is a T5, and that was in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, a team event. He’s the only two-time winner on PGA TOUR Champions so far this year, and his other finish was a runner-up. Plus, he now can draw on some familiarity with the course.
How many majors will he play? That is anybody’s guess. It’s probably safe to say more than last year.
3. Breakthrough coming
Two players in this week’s Power Rankings have yet to win on PGA TOUR Champions. But if either David Toms or Scott Parel were to win at the Tradition it hardly would be a surprise.
Toms has been one of the best and most consistent players in 2018 with five top fives in eight events. He ranks fifth in the Schwab Cup standings; he basically has done everything right except notch that first victory.
Toms’ best finish in a major last year came at the Regions Tradition, where he tied for sixth. He should be a factor in all of the majors in which he plays. He ranks sixth on tour in putting average and leads in sand save percentage.
Parel came close to getting his first victory at this year’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic, making a playoff with Steve Flesch and Langer. He also spoke openly recently about how he’d love to have his breakthrough victory at a major.
Like Toms, Parel’s best finish in a major also came at last year’s Regions Tradition. He tied for second after opening 67-66. Parel is a big hitter (third in driving distance) who can win anywhere if the putter (19th in putting average) gets hot.
4. Last year’s other major winners
Langer won three majors in 2017 en route to winning seven events and player of the year honors for the fourth consecutive year. The other two players to claim majors last year were Kenny Perry (U.S. Senior Open) and Scott McCarron (Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship).
Perry has only recently returned to action after offseason shoulder surgery. He and partner Russ Cochran tied for 26th at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, and then Perry finished a solid T5 at the Insperity Invitational. Those are his only two starts, but closing rounds of 65-69 at the TPC Woodlands should have gotten everyone’s attention. Perry has won four majors on PGA TOUR Champions, and with his shoulder apparently in working order he’s a threat to add to his total.
McCarron ranked second in putting a year ago when he posted four wins, including his first major. He ranks 42nd in putting in 2018. He still has four top 10s in nine events; if he solves his problems on the greens he’s a big-time threat, too.
5. Major breakthrough coming
Of the players in the top 10 in the Schwab Cup rankings, only Langer (No. 1) and Gene Sauers (7) have won majors on PGA TOUR Champions. Stricker (2), Jerry Kelly (3), Joe Durant (4), Toms (5), Vijay Singh (6), Mark Calcavecchia (8), Kirk Triplett (9) and Steve Flesch (10) all are hoping to add to their resumes. It’s easy to believe there could be multiple first-time major winners in 2018.