NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Entering its 22nd year, the Champions Tour event in Naples is nonetheless all new.
The ACE Group Classic is being played for the first time on a Tournament Players Club course, the TPC Treviso Bay, and has a host for the first time – local resident and Champions Tour player Peter Jacobsen.
Treviso Bay, which was designed by Arthur Hills with Hal Sutton as a player consultant, has been open since the beginning of December.
Scott Hoch will be back starting Friday to defend his title – barely. Hoch, 53, withdrew prior to last week’s Allianz Championship, where he also was the defending champion, due to tendinitis and arthritis in his left wrist.
Hoch said he felt better after hitting balls in the middle of last week, then was sick over the weekend. He tested the wrist again on Tuesday and Wednesday, then played in Thursday’s pro-am.
“If it’s like this the rest of the week, I won’t have any problem playing, but I will have a problem playing well,” Hoch said. “If this was a tournament I wasn’t defending, then I wouldn’t be here. I feel an extra responsibility to try to be here if I can, especially since I was defending last week and wasn’t able to play.”
Bernhard Langer, the 2008 Champions Tour player of the year, and Fred Funk are both playing in Naples for the first time.
Langer, who won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, seemed to be in control at last week’s Allianz Championship until he was 4 over on the final four holes of his second round.
Langer came back with a final-round 67, but finished third, three shots behind winner Mike Goodes.
Funk is returning to tournament golf after dealing with a staph infection in his right knee at the Merrill Lynch Shootout in Naples in December. He required two operations and stopped taking intravenous fluids only two weeks ago.
Jacobsen underwent surgery on a torn left rotator cuff last month and won’t return to the tour until May or June.