WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — It’s all set up for Jay Haas. Fresh off a win at the Senior PGA Championship, Haas returns to the Glen Oaks Country Club for this weekend’s Principal Charity Classic with a chance to take over first place in the points standings and the money list.
If Haas can repeat the performance he put on at Glen Oaks a year ago, when he cruised to a three-stroke win, both will be his. Bernhard Langer, the Champions Tour’s current leader in points and money, is sitting out this weekend’s event.
“I have good feelings about this golf course, doing well here last year. I just have to use that adrenaline I had last week,” said Haas.
Despite Langer’s absence, Haas will face stiff competition in his bid to repeat.
There are several new faces in the field this year, highlighted by Scott Hoch. He’s one of only two golfers in the field – Denis Watson being the other – to win two Champions Tour events this season. Hoch has also posted a pair of second-place finishes and is third in the points standings and on the money list.
Hoch seems to have finally overcome the hand and wrist injuries that kept him out of the game for most of 2005 and 2006. This year, he’s already taken home more money in 12 events than he did in 22 tournaments in 2007.
“I’ve won the two, and I finished second in two, and I look back and, one of those two I probably should have won,” said Hoch. “It’s a good sign when you don’t think you’ve played well, and you’re there. But it’s also the point that, maybe your game actually is coming back where you’re not giving yourself enough credit for what you’ve done.”
Jeff Sluman, playing his first full season on the 50-and-over circuit, will be seeking his first Champions Tour win. So will Nick Price, who withdrew after the first round last week at Oak Hill.
Price had posted five straight top-10s before the Senior PGA, including a tie for second at the FedEx Kinko’s Classic in early May.
“I’m playing better now. Continuity has helped,” Price said. “I’ve played four really good tournaments this year where I’ve had a chance to win.”
One of the more intriguing golfers in the field is 2007 Schwab Cup winner Loren Roberts. He’s back in Iowa the first time since blowing the lead with two holes to go in the final round of 2006, when he double-bogeyed the 17th hole and missed a 9-foot putt on No. 18 that would have forced a playoff.
Roberts hasn’t been himself this season, but he’s still been pretty good. Roberts is fifth on the money list despite a tie for 49th at last week’s Senior PGA, by far his worst showing of the year.
“I’m probably in not as good a form as I was, definitely in ’06 and ’07. But I’ve been working on a few things and I think my game is definitely coming around,” said Roberts, who hasn’t won a Champions Tour event this season. “For me it’s the putter.”
Though Haas will enter play as the favorite, only one defending champion in the seven-year history of the event has cracked the top 10.
“It’s tough to win a tournament. It’s getting tougher and tougher,” Haas said. “I have some great feelings about here…but it’s tougher and tougher to win out here. Now, the field’s getting deeper.”
One major concern heading into Friday’s opening round is the weather. Forecasters say there’s a good chance for scattered thunderstorms throughout the day, which could lead to a delayed start. The weather is expected to be clear on Saturday and Sunday.