Rookies have won back-to-back events on TOUR (Brendan Steele/Valero Texas Open and Charl Schwartzel/Masters) for the first time since 2002 when Jonathan Byrd won the Buick Challenge and Luke Donaldwon the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
With Brendan Steele’s victory at the Valero Texas Open, there are now five first-time winners on TOUR this season (Jhonattan Vegas, D.A. Points, Gary Woodland, Charl Schwartzel and Steele). Vegas (10), Schwartzel (11) and Steele (19) are rookies and all sit inside the top 30 in the current FedExCup standings along with Chris Kirk (29).
Jim Furyk’s 2010 road to the FedExCup title made a stop in Hilton Head Island, where he captured the second of three victories on the season at The Heritage. Five players in this week’s field (Jonathan Byrd,Aaron Baddeley,Luke Donald,Rory Sabbatini,Brendan Steele) have the opportunity to join Mark Wilson (also in the field) as a multiple 2011 PGA TOUR winner.
Jim Furyk is looking to keep 17-year streak intact this week at The Heritage, as no defending champion has missed the cut at Harbour Town GL since Davis Love III in 1993. Furyk has five top 10s in his last seven Heritage starts, including his victory last year.
Five-time Heritage champion Davis Love III returns to Harbour Town for the 26th consecutive year, a streak which began with a T41 finish in 1986. Love is the youngest winner in The Heritage history at 23 years, 6 days when he won the first of his five titles in 1987. Hale Irwin (1994) at 48 years, 10 months, 14 days is the oldest winner in tournament history.
The last time The Heritage was not played the week after the Masters Tournament was 1982, with Tom Watson winning two weeks prior to Augusta.
Expect a heavy contingent of Clemson orange in the galleries this week, as seven players with Clemson ties are in the field – Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Ben Martin, Sam Saunders, Kyle Stanley, D.J. Trahan and Charles Warren.
For those players who have not qualified for THE PLAYERS Championship (May 12-15), there are two weeks remaining to do so. The top 10 in the FedExCup standings or the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (April 28-May 1) earn exemptions into THE PLAYERS. A player may also qualify via a victory at The Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship.
John Cook ended a 0-106 victory drought in Florida (0-95 on the PGA TOUR, 0-11 on the Champions Tour) when he won the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am at TPC Tampa Bay. Cook also ended a 0-4 drought in playoffs on the Champions Tour.
Eleven former winners of The Heritage are in the field at this week’s Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf:
Bob Goalby 1970
Hubert Green 1976, 1978
Hale Irwin 1971, 1973, 1994
Graham Marsh 1977
Nick Price 1997
Loren Roberts 1996
Bill Rogers 1981
Doug Tewell 1980
Bob Tway 1995
Tom Watson 1979, 1982
Fuzzy Zoeller 1983, 1986
Sixty-five-year-old Hale Irwin posted his third top-10 finish in 2011 with a T9 at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. It was Irwin’s 201st top-10 finish of his Champions Tour career, leaving him just two shy of Bob Charles’ record of 203.
Tom Lehman fell short in his quest to equal Hale Irwin’s all-time record of 13 straight sub-70 rounds, shooting a 2-over 73 in the first round of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Two players who haven’t played a Champions Tour event in more than a year returned last week at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. Scott Hoch, out of action since playing in last year’s ACE Group Classic, finished T25 while Jim Thorpe, who last played at the 2009 AT&T Championship, was T59.
This is the 32nd consecutive year for Liberty Mutual as the title sponsor of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the longest-running on the Champions Tour. The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf is also the second-oldest event in senior golf with only the 72-year-old Senior PGA Championship exceeding it in longevity.
Collectively, the 72 teams competing in all three divisions of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf own 979 PGA TOUR titles, including 77 major championship victories. The field also includes 16 World Golf Hall of Fame members.
Tom Lehman, a winner of two Champions Tour events thus far in 2011, will partner with Corey Pavin at this year’s Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Lehman captained the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team and served as one of Pavin’s assistant captains at the 2010 Ryder Cup. Lehman has to select a new partner after his regular teammate, Bernard Langer, was forced out of action for two months with left thumb surgery. He and Langer won the 2009 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, Lehman’s first career win on the Champions Tour.
Doug Ford, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011, is the only player who has played in every Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Ford is making his 34th consecutive appearance in the event and will again partner with Billy Maxwell in the Demaret Division competition. Ford won 19 PGA TOUR events in his career, including the 1955 PGA Championship and 1957 Masters. He will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on May 9 along with Ernie Els, Jumbo Ozaki, Jock Hutchison, Frank Chirkinian and former President George H.W. Bush.
International players make up the teams defending both the Raphael Division (John Bland, South Africa & Graham Marsh, Australia) and the Demaret Division (Bob Charles, New Zealand & Gary Player, South Africa) at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. They are the only teams in their respective Division’s where both players are from outside of the United States. There are three fully international teams in the Legends Division (Rod Spittle, Canada & Des Smyth, Ireland; Peter Senior, Australia & Sandy Lyle, Scotland; and Ian Baker-Finch, Australia & Joe Ozaki, Japan).
Sweden's Daniel Chopra flirted with 59 on Saturday in the Fresh Express Classic near San Francisco. He stood 10-under par on the 17th tee at the par-70 TPC Stonebrae. A 45-foot putt on 17 missed by inches and an errant 9-iron into the 18th led to his lone bogey of the day and a round of 61. On Sunday, he became a Nationwide Tour winner for the third time when a persistent fog forced the event to be curtailed to 54 holes.
Former Jacksonville University golfer Russell Knox turned a successful Monday qualifying attempt at the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae into Special Temporary Membership with a T2 finish. The 25-year-old Scotsman who lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., earned $52,800, which puts him in next week’s South Georgia Classic and very good position for the upcoming eligibility reorder. He will likely get in all or most of the tournaments he wishes to enter the rest of the year.
In three Nationwide Tour starts, Erik Compton has a T4, T19 and T4 (Fresh Express Classic) and is 10th on the money list. The former University of Georgia All-American has also played in four PGA TOUR events this year, making the cut in every one.
Universityof Florida senior captain Andres Echavarria had to pass on playing in the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae to join his teammates in the SEC Championship in St. Simons Island, Ga. Echavarria captured the individual title in a playoff, while UF won the team competition. The Colombia native finished runner-up in the recent Chitimacha Louisiana Open, which earned him a spot (for a top-25 finish) in the Fresh Express event. In early March, Echavarria turned a sponsor exemption in Bogota into a T19 finish to earn the Louisiana start.