There will be no Tiger Woods sightings at the Ritz Carlton. The top European golfers won’t take over Li’l Abner’s Steakhouse for the week and Jim Furyk will have to find another time to watch his Arizona Wildcats in person.
But there will still be professional golf in Tucson.
The PGA Tour made official what the Star’s Greg Hansen first reported on Tuesday — the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship won’t return to Dove Mountain in 2015. Instead, a Champions Tour event will take its place. The Tucson Classic will take over Omni Tucson National from March 16-22, 2015; golfers will play for part of a $1.7 million purse.
So what is the Champions Tour? Is this an upgrade? Who are the stars of the tour?
Here’s a lowdown on everything Champions Tour
1. These guys are good. Yes, we’re stealing the PGA Tour’s slogan to describe their elders, but it’s true.
The Champions Tour, made up of former PGA regulars who are 50 and older, is home to some of the most accomplished golfers in history.
For proof, let’s exam the top five on the Champion Tour’s points standings. Bernhard Langer, ranked No. 1 at the moment, won the Masters twice and has 42 European Tour wins to his credit. Numbers two through five on the list — Jay Haas, Colin Montgomerie, Kenny Perry and Fred Couples — have combined for 38 PGA Tour wins and one major title.
If those names don’t do it for you, Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Duffy Waldorf, Rocco Mediate, Mark O’Meara and Peter Jacobsen are all tour regulars.
It’s too early to know if the likes of Couples and Watson will be roaming Tucson National, but the event is guaranteed to have at least a few names you’re familiar with.
2. They’ve torn up Tucson before. Whatever the field ends up looking like, there’s a good chance it will consist a number of men who have thrived in Tucson at some point in their careers.
In fact, in 2006, when Tucson hosted the Chrysler Classic of Tucson for the final time, Kirk Triplett, now a Champions Tour staple, won.
“Living in nearby Phoenix, I love desert golf, so I’m really happy the event will be on our schedule next year,” Triplett said in a release. “After all, I was the last one to claim that Conquistador helmet.”
Triplett isn’t the only one on the Champions Tour who has won in the Old Pueblo. Jim Carter (2000), Jeff Sluman (1997), Andrew Magee (1994), Larry Mize (1993), David Frost (1988), Mike Reid (1987), Jim Thorpe (1985-86), Tom Watson, 1978, 1984), Gil Morgan (1983) and Craig Stadler (1982) all won the Tucson tournament during their careers.
3. They can make Tucson a hot spot. How big of a tournament will this be? We’ll find out in time.
It’s not a major. We know that for sure. The five majors — the Senior PGA Championship, the U.S. Senior Open, the Regions Tradition, the Senior Players Championship, and the Senior (British) Open Championship — take place from late May until late July. The other major stop on the tour comes at the very end when the top golfers head to Desert Mountain in Scottsdale for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
All total, there are 26 stops on the Champions Tour this year. The 2014 season opened at Hualalai Golf Club in Ka’upulehu-Kona, Hawaii in mid-January. Other tournaments included stops in Boca Raton, Fla., Newport Beach, California, The Woodlands, Texas, and Glenview, Illinois.
Langer has dominated the tour in recent years. He’s the money leader this year and was the top earner in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Lehman won it in 2011.