SUNRIVER, Ore. (AP) — There’s no comfort for Fred Funk as the defending champion at the Jeld-Wen Tradition.
Lurking in the field is Tom Watson, who came oh-so-close to winning the British Open earlier this summer, and perennial fan favorite Greg Norman, who is making his first appearance in the event.
And then there’s money leader Bernhard Langer of Germany, who has won four events this season on the Champions Tour.
The Tradition, the fourth of five majors on the tour for senior players, gets under way Thursday at Crosswater Golf Club on the high desert in central Oregon.
Funk, 53, is coming off a victory at the U.S. Senior Open, where he became the first player in a USGA championship to finish at 20-under par. A week earlier, he lost in a three-way playoff at the Senior British Open.
He has finished in the top 10 in the previous three Champions Tour majors this season.
Leading the Charles Schwab Cup points standings, Funk would have a nice cushion should he defend at Crosswater.
“I am really looking forward to coming out and hopefully, I can defend it the proper way and win it again. I really have some high goals and these majors are very important in our points race,” he said.
Funk shot a final-round 3-under 69 in the Tradition last year for a three-shot victory over Mike Goodes and his first win in a major on the tour.
This year there’s more attention on the tournament, thanks to appearances by Watson and Norman.
Watson, who won the Tradition in 2003, fell to Stewart Cink in a playoff at Turnberry a month ago. Although he had hoped for the fairy tale ending of becoming the oldest player to win a major on the PGA Tour, Watson has found that being one of the most memorable runners-up in the game’s history has an upside, too.
“I have been overwhelmed, to a degree, but very humbled by the reaction of people to it,” he said. “I really have. It’s been a very special time for me.”
Norman, 54, plays a very limited schedule, devoting most of his time to his businesses. He is making just his ninth appearance on the tour this season.
But the Australian Hall of Famer admitted Wednesday that he’s got that competitive itch.
“I haven’t won yet (this season) and I’d really like to chalk one up on the board again,” he said.
Norman, Tom Lehman, Bob Tway, Larry Mize and Hal Sutton are making their first appearances in the event.
The Tradition started at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1989 before it moved to Superstition Mountain for a year in 2002.
With the help of Oregon native Peter Jacobsen, the event moved again in 2003 to the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club west of Portland. In 2007, it came to Crosswater. Last year steamy temperatures gave way to a delay because of lightning during the final round.
The Tradition is sponsored by Jeld-Wen, an Oregon-based window and door manufacturer.