Fox Chapel will see what have become familiar faces as for the second year it will host the Constellation Senior Players. The third of five majors on the Champions Tour was won last year by Joe Daley, who kept the trophy in Pennsylvania as he lives near Philadelphia.
The par-70 Fox Chapel Golf Club measures 6,710 yards and is a course designed by Seth Raynor.
“He had a very unique style that he picked up from his mentor Charlie McDonald,” Crenshaw said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play lots of their courses and you see lots of similarities in the replica holes they’ve tried to incorporate and how they fit that into the particular property. It induces an element of heart when you see the courses. The greens are just spectacular and different from one another.
“I’ve never played a Seth Raynor course I didn’t thoroughly enjoy and I think he’s sort of an unsung hero in architecture. The big three are [A.W.] Tillinghast, [Donald] Ross and Alister MacKenzie and they loom very large in architecture but Raynor put forth a solid course wherever he went.”
Once again, the course is receiving plenty of praise from the golfers.
“The course is great and you just need to keep the ball below the hole, because the greens are fast,” Colin Montgomerie said. “The fairways are in great condition and all in all, a very good golf course.”
While the vast majority of the players know the course, John Cook says that the course has changed, most notably the length of some of the rough. This likely will affect different decisions throughout a player’s round.
“The golf course is a lot tougher, although we know it better,” Cook said. “It’s a little more lush. The seventh hole was drivable [in one shot] last year and I hit it in there today and you couldn’t move it. The game plan will be a little different.”
Because of the rough, players such as Roger Chapman are concerned that they will be unable to find consistency in their game.
“The way I’m driving lately, the rough won’t help me much,” Chapman said. “I’ve not been playing particularly well. This year the emphasis is hitting on the fairways and that gives you a chance.”
Last year Daley won by going 14 under par for the tournament, but with these conditions Cook does not believe that number will be matched this week.
“Someone really is going to have to play their best golf,” Cook said. “The guy that hits the most fairways and greens this week will win.”
Charles Schwab Cup points leader David Frost agrees.
“Four rounds an average of three or four under a day, something like that would put you in a good position depending on the weather and the greens,” Frost said.
Montgomerie prepares to make Champions Tour debut
This past Sunday, Colin Montgomerie turned 50 years old and thus became eligible for the Champions Tour. As a result he is in the field this week making his first start on the senior circuit.
“I’ve looked forward to this for a few years now and here we are, making it to 50,” Montgomerie said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing with guys I’ve played with many times, Bernhard Langer especially. I look forward to trying to compete with him.”
Based on the response from several players, they are all excited to have “Monty” join the tour, even if it means more competition.
“We love Colin over here,” Cook said. “We always have enjoyed him coming over to play our tour. He was their best player week in and week out. He didn’t win the majors other guys did, but he won their money list enough. That shows you the type of game he’s had and he does well on courses like this.”
This type of reaction has really helped Montgomerie make an easier transition to the Champions Tour.
“It’s been first class,” Montgomerie said. “We all respect each other and what we’ve achieved in the game. We don’t have anything to prove to anybody, so we just go out and enjoy ourselves in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Frost taking care of business
Like Montgomerie, Frost had been unable to win a major before joining the Champions Tour. However Frost was able to win the Regions Tradition, the second major of the 2013, by a stroke over Fred Couples. He also bested Couples in March at the Toshiba Classic.
“After the fact [the major win is] more gratifying than at the time,” Frost said. “At the time, a win feels like a win. Every win is special, but the praise you get afterwards allows it to sink in.”
Frost currently leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings by 298 points over Bernhard Langer.
“Obviously it’s somewhere I’d like to be at the end of the year, but it’s less of a ladder to climb during the year,” Frost said. “It’s very gratifying to have these kind of results at the moment. My game feels good, I feel solid and I feel quite rounded in my game, there’s no weakness right now. I just keep my wits about me and enjoy what I’m doing.”
Frost will be paired in the first two rounds with Langer and Montgomerie. The trio will tee off at 11:53 a.m. on Thursday and 9:30 Friday.
“We’ve played together many times before, it’s nice that we’re still able to compete at this age and give the people some enjoyment,” Frost said.
Walking the course
The course is still in great shape and for the most part identical to last year. As the players said the rough will not be as forgiving.
In his practice round, Cook hit a ball into the deep rough and when asked by a reporter how far he advanced the ball, he said that the ball was picked up and not played. Cook did not want to “waste a wrist.”
Like last year, the 17th hole will play a big role. A 231-yard par 3, the hole has a severe dip in the middle of the green that many short shots will fall into. The putt coming up the hill will have a lot of break to it. Many players have called the hole a ‘skate park’ while Colin Montgomerie called it “Humpty Dumpty.”
The green speeds in general will be fast, meaning that most of the misses will need to be short if players want to score well.
Zac Weiss: I have to go with John Cook to win. This is a player that has won 20 times overall and nine times on the Champions Tour. He has been the bridesmaid on many occasions of majors, however he has won an event earlier in the season and seems to have the right attitude going into the event.
Chris Dazen: Mark O’Meara. He won the event three years ago and has a history of doing well at this tournament. He also is 10th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings with seven top 10s.
Notable tee times:
Thurs 8:57 Fri 11:31 Jeff Sluman, Roger Chapman and Loren Roberts
Thurs 9:08 Fri 11:42 Michael Allen, Kenny Perry and Fred Funk
Thurs 9:30 Fri 12:04 Fred Couples, Jay Haas and Nick Price
Thurs 9:41 Fri 12:15 John Cook, Mark O’Meara and Corey Pavin
Thurs 11:31 Fri 9:08 Kohki Idoki, Sandy Lyle and Ben Crenshaw
Thurs 11:53 Fri 9:30 Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and David Frost
Thurs 12:04 Fri 9:41 Rocco Mediate, Joe Daley and Craig Stadler
Thurs 12:15 Fri 9:52 Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Tom Lehman
Pro-am fun at Fox Chapel
For a second consecutive year, Fox Chapel played host to a Championship challenge. Won last year by the Steelers team, the event resembled a HORSE competition among a threesomes representing the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. Each team had a golfer, celebrity and radio/television personality.
This year’s competition was won by the Pirates team which consisted of former pitcher Kent Tekulve, ROOT Sports personality Paul Alexander and Larry Mize. The Pirates’ charity of their choosing will receive $10,000 while the Steelers and Penguins teams were awarded $5,000 each for their charities.
Information for fans:
Spectator parking and shuttles to Fox Chapel Golf Club are available from the Shady Side Academy intramural fields (lots 5 and 6) Wednesday. For the rest of the week, you can park free at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills and a parking pass is not needed. Premium lot parking (lot 6) is at Shady Side Academy and transportation is provided. Space is limited in the lot.
Children 18 and younger get into the tournament for free when they are with a ticketed adult. There is no limit to the youth who can attend with an adult. This applies for grounds tickets only. Military member will receive complimentary admission all week.
There is a possibility for rain each day of the tournament, and spectators are allowed to bring a rain jacket or windbreaker in with them. For those looking for autographs, players are encouraged to sign for fans around the clubhouse, scoring area and practice areas.
Chris Dazen also contributed to this report.