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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And Now, the Champions Major

In addition to the LPGA playing the Women's British Open this week, the Champions Tour plays the U.S. Senior Open. This is the third of the five Champions Tour majors, and it's unusual in that it's generally played the week after the Senior Open Championship... unusual because it requires a transcontinental flight to get from one to the other, with no time for acclimatization in-between. That's one of the reasons Fred Couples played the Canadian Open last week.

Picture of Sahalee
The Senior Open is going to be played at Sahalee Country Club, a private course in Sammamish WA (that's just east of Seattle), and for this tournament it's been set up as a par-71 course that will play 6900 yards. (The pic is from the Champions Tour website.) Sahalee's no stranger to big golf tournaments -- it hosted both the 1998 PGA Championship (Vijay's first major) and the 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational (won by Craig Perry). While the course has a lot of different types of hazards, its overwhelming characteristic is trees. Lots of trees. Lots of trees that grow really close together. Can you hit a straight ball? You'll need it at Sahalee. (Thanks to Wikipedia for much of that info.)

The Champions Tour doesn't have its own world rankings. They're bunched in with the younger players, and the highest-ranked I could find is Fred Couples at 127. (Bernhard Langer, who won the Senior Open Championship last week, isn't even listed.) The best we're probably going to do is the Charles Schwab Cup standings, so here are the Top 10, with their points, total tournaments played, total wins, and total Top 10s. (You can check out the entire list here.)
  1. Bernhard Langer, 1450, 12, 3, 7
  2. Fred Couples, 1433, 9, 3, 7
  3. Tom Lehman, 1134, 8, 1, 6
  4. Nick Price, 974, 11, 2, 8
  5. Corey Pavin, 790, 9, 0, 5
  6. Dan Forsman, 747, 14, 1, 8
  7. John Cook, 615, 14, 0, 5
  8. Tommy Armour III, 608, 11, 0, 6
  9. Loren Roberts, 576, 13, 1, 5
  10. Mark O'Meara, 558, 9, 1, 3
It's easy to see how Langer and Couples make the top of the list, each having 3 wins and 7 Top 10s. Fred got his in fewer starts, but Bernhard has played better lately. The Schwab Cup points list obviously doesn't include any regular Tour events these men have played, which would affect Couples, Lehman (#233 in the world), and Pavin (#151). Had I shown the entire list, you would find another player hitting both tours, Tom Watson, in 15th place with 1 win and 3 Top 10s in only 6 starts; he's also ranked #138 in the world rankings.

You might want to check out the Power Rankings at the Champions Tour website. (Everybody's doing "power rankings" now, aren't they?) They have Fred Couples at the top of their five-man list, so he must be their favorite. Not only is Fred from Seattle, but he lost the Senior PGA to Lehman in a playoff; perhaps he has something to prove.

I see things a little differently. Freddie's cooled off a bit since his hot start to the year; and while being home is certainly in his favor, a U.S. Open-style layout is not. Langer doesn't even make the power list, but I suspect the excitement of his Open win and the drastic time change will hurt him this week anyway.

Corey PavinWhile someone unexpected could come out of the pack, I think Corey Pavin has the best chance to win this one. He's playing well on both tours -- check these stats:
  • 9 for 9 cuts on the Champions Tour; scoring average 68.56; earnings $655,167
  • 5 for 7 cuts on the PGA Tour; scoring average 69.20; earnings $839,193 (70th); 88 in FedEx Standings
Even Freddie can't match those PGA stats -- he's only 145th ($397,406) in 4 of 6 events, 157th in the FedEx, and a scoring average of 70.75. Corey hasn't won this year yet, but his finishes are getting better each week... and he's got 2 Top 10s (one of those a 2nd) on the PGA Tour! The only player with anywhere near that much in winnings in so few tournaments is Tiger... and Corey's ahead of him. Plus, Corey's won a U.S. Open before. I really like his chances this week. (The pic was cropped from his Wikipedia photo.)

ESPN2 will be covering the first two days of the event, and NBC will cover the weekend.

That finishes my previews of this week's two majors. I'm picking Shin and Pavin to win them; we'll see if they can make me look like a genius this time. (God knows I need some help in that department...)


  1. Wow - taking Pavin over (rested) home town hero, Fred Couples, eh ? Pavin's definitely playing well, but those rolling hills at Sahalee, especially if it's wet (does it ever rain in Seattle ?), are going to cause some problems for short hitting Pavin.

  2. I just got a feeling, Court. I just got a feeling...