LAKEWAY, Texas (AP) — Scott Hoch hasn’t been back to the Hills of Lakeway course since winning his first Champions Tour title in the FedEx Kinko’s Classic last year.
He figures he knows the par-72 layout in this Austin suburb pretty well as he prepares to defend his title in the $1.6 million event, which starts Friday.
“No, I didn’t come back,” Hoch said. “Why should I? I liked the course the first time I saw it. I’m looking forward to defending.”
His two-shot victory over D.A. Weibring earned a $240,000 payday, the same amount that will go to this year’s winner on Sunday.
Eight of the top 10 on the 2008 money list will be on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course – including Hoch, who already has won twice in 2008. At No. 2 on the money list, Hoch is the highest-ranked player this week since leading money winner Bernhard Langer is taking the week off.
Jay Haas, the two-time defending Champions Tour player of the year, is right behind Hoch in earnings but still is looking for his first win of 2008. He has six top-10 finishes in seven tournaments.
“I’ve celebrated victories in all kinds of ways, but I just want to win again,” Haas said. “I like Texas a lot, and this would be a good week to finally get a win in 2008.”
This year’s field includes every player from five to 10 on the money list: Bart Bryant, Fred Funk, John Cook, Mark Wiebe, Loren Roberts and Jerry Pate.
The event unofficially is hosted by Austin natives, residents and former Texas Longhorns Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. Crenshaw is looking for his first win on the Champions Tour, which started in Austin in 1980.
Kite, meanwhile, is still looking for his first tour-sanctioned victory in Texas. He never won in 103 PGA Tour events in his home state, and his Champions Tour drought is at 17.