For the third time in four years, San Francisco’s classic public golf venue, TPC Harding Park, will be the site of the championship tournament of the Champions Tour, but there’s a certain lack of suspense in this year’s contest – only two men are in a position to win the Cup, and one of them is a mathematical long shot. The action that determines the winner will take place this week at the venerable Lake Merced golf course over four days, from 31 October to 03 November.
Kenny Perry’s win at last week’s AT&T Championship at TPC San Antonio, where he defeated Germany’s Bernhard Langer on the first hole of a playoff, set him on top of the points standings coming into the season finale in San Francisco, and he is sitting on a nearly insurmountable lead for the season-long championship, over the Munich-born Langer. In order for Langer to take the Cup, he has to win the final tournament outright, with Perry finishing no better than a five-way tie for fourth place or a two-way tie for fifth.
Not that Langer is taking anything for granted. When Perry arrived at Harding Park Tuesday afternoon, he was told that the German player had been there since the day before, and had teed off in a practice round Monday morning.
It’s no surprise to see Langer and Perry in this position – the two men have dominated the Champions Tour’s 2013 season. With $2,234,095 in winnings in 23 event, Langer leads Perry, with 19 events under his belt this year, by $106,657 in the money list – the next closest player, David Frost, lags Perry by $369, 204.
While the outcome at the top of the season-long championship may seem to hold little suspense, there’s no reason to assume that the tournament itself will be a foregone conclusion. The tight fairways and dense rough of the 3-time Schwab Cup venue makes Harding Park a challenging proposition for even experienced players like the 50+ year-old contestants of the Champions Tour. The cool damp air of the near-seaside location (less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean breakers, just the other side of Lake Merced and the Olympic Club) will keep ball flight on the short side, putting a premium on driving accuracy, short-game prowess and experience on Harding Park’s combination bentgrass/Poa annua greens.
Bay Area-native Michael Allen a threat for tournament’s top spot
For experience on the fairways and greens of Harding Park, the man to talk about in the field of the 2013 Schwab Cup is San Mateo-born Michael Allen. Allen owns the course record, 61, at Harding Park, a mark he set in 2010, and has played the course hundreds of times since he was a junior golfer growing up in the Bay Area. Allen is currently sixth in the Schwab Cup rankings, just five points outside of the Top 5, and fourth on the money list. Allen will be paired with 2013 Presidents Cup US Team captain Fred Couples in Thursday’s opening round, teeing off at 11:50 AM.