With just one weekend left in the Champions Tour season, the senior circuit’s big prizes are still up for grabs.
That’s why Fred Funk, Jay Haas and Bernhard Langer all have reason to hope for a big finish at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Sonoma.
Haas enters the four-day event at Sonoma Golf Club in Northern California wine country with a razor-thin 12-point lead over Funk in the standings for the Schwab Cup and the $1 million annuity awarded to the winner of a yearlong points race.
Langer is behind both golfers in the Schwab Cup standings, but he leads the money list by about $50,000 over Haas.
All three golfers could end up with the money title and the Schwab Cup with a victory in the tournament, the traditional close to the Champions Tour season. Haas was in a similar situation last year behind Loren Roberts heading into the Sonoma weekend, but he couldn’t catch up in the Schwab Cup standings.
“I’ll have to play well here to hold off everyone,” Haas said Wednesday. “Really, 12 points is nothing. Last year, I didn’t finish in the top 10. Didn’t get any points. Had a chance, Loren gave me an opportunity to pass him, and I couldn’t do it. So I’d like to remedy that and play better this year.”
Eduardo Romero and John Cook also have an outside chance at the Schwab Cup championship in the 29-man field, which won’t include Tom Watson while he recovers from hip replacement surgery. The only certainty is that Jim Thorpe won’t become a three-time winner of the tournament after the popular veteran finished outside the tour’s top 30.
Langer didn’t become eligible for the tour until his 50th birthday late last season, but he’s made an immediate impact. He took a week off before the Schwab Cup Championship to prepare for his first appearance in Sonoma.
“The only thing I can control is my own game, and sometimes I can’t control that,” Langer said. “I know if I play as well as I can, I can beat everybody, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I really have no control over Fred Funk or Jay Haas or the other guys. Whatever the outcome will be, it’s been a good year for me. I have no complaints.”
Haas passed Funk in the Schwab Cup standings last weekend in San Antonio, where Haas finished third while Funk tied for 36th. A victory in Sonoma is worth $442,000 from the $2.5 million purse – and don’t forget the Schwab Cup annuity.
Cook and Romero have enjoyed outstanding seasons on the Champions Tour, but both would have to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship to take home the annuity. With rainstorms in the forecast for the weekend in a normally dry time of year in Sonoma, the results could be unpredictable.
“I like this golf course,” Cook said. “I think it doesn’t favor anybody. Everybody’s got a chance in this field. You’ve had a good year if you’re here. You’ve obviously put together some very good weeks, and you’ve had a number of chances to win. If anybody won here this week, it would be no surprise. These guys are very good.”