PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A week after the best players in golf descended upon Jack Nicklaus’ world-class layout at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the spotlight turns to the best in senior golf, who are being welcomed at another Golden Bear gem. Today, the Champions Tour’s second major championship of the season, the Regions Tradition, tees off at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala.
Shoal Creek, who opened to much acclaim in 1976, has a strong major championship tradition. The Top-100, Jack Nicklaus design previously hosted the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championship, the 1986 U.S. Amateur Championship, the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and the 2011 Regions Tradition. The 7,197-yard, par-72, layout will again provide a stern test to the world’s best.
“Shoal Creek is so special and so beautiful and the topography is so great. There are these areas where you just walk around and lose yourself. We want to take advantage of all that and really deliver a five-star experience to the fans,” said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who played in the NCR Pro-Am at the tournament. When asked about the condition of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Finchem replied, “Perfect. It’s perfect… The thing about this golf course, it’s challenging for the really good player – I wouldn’t put myself in that category – but it’s very playable for the average player, too. That’s the hallmark of what greatness is in a golf course.”
The course, which opened for play in 1976, is currently ranked 72nd on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.
This year marks the 24th playing of the Tradition. The field will be comprised of 76 players, who have combined for 740 total wins on both the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour, including 24 PGA TOUR majors and 18 Champions Tour majors. The format will be a 72-hole stroke-play event. As one of the Champions Tour majors, the double Charles Schwab Cup points awarded to the top-10 finishers in the Regions Tradition will be a critical factor in determining the Charles Schwab Cup champion at the end of the season. The Charles Schwab Cup will be played on Desert Mountain’s Cochise Course—one of six Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses at Desert Mountain—from Nov. 1-4.
Tom Lehman returns to the Regions Tradition to defend his title, one of three victories he posted last year. Lehman went on to win the season-long Charles Schwab Cup and was named 2011 Champions Tour Player of the Year.
Fan favorite Fred Couples is also committed, as is Charles Schwab Cup points leader Michael Allen, who will be seeking to extend his lead in the season-long points race. John Cook, currently second in the Schwab Cup standings, and Peter Senior, who was defeated by Lehman in a playoff at last year’s Regions Tradition, will also return to Shoal Creek.
Roger Chapman, the winner of the first major of the year at last month’s Senior PGA Championship at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores—another Jack Nicklaus design—is in the field and will be joined by every Champions Tour winner this year (Dan Forsman, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen, David Frost and Fred Funk).
Five World Golf Hall of Fame members—Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, and Larry Nelson—are in the Tradition field. Lyle is the most recent Hall of Fame member, having been inducted during last month’s ceremony.
Four sponsor exemptions have been extended to Jerry Pate, Jim Gallagher, Jr., Steve Jones and Fulton Allem, who have combined for 24 PGA TOUR victories. Pate, an eight-time TOUR winner, is a University of Alabama graduate whose victories include the 1976 U.S. Open. Gallagher, with five TOUR wins, has represented the United States in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and will be competing in his first Regions Tradition. Jones won eight times on the TOUR, including the 1996 U.S. Open and Allem represented the International Team in the 1994 Presidents Cup and has three TOUR wins. Coincidentally, Jones and Pate won their respective U.S. Open titles after getting into the championship through sectional qualifying.
Some of the biggest names in golf, including World Golf Hall of Fame members Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite and Tom Watson, are past champions of The Tradition. The Golden Bear won the event a record four times.
The Golf Channel will televise the tournament exclusively each of the four days with a worldwide distribution to more than 186 countries and territories, reaching more than 200 million households.
The 2012 Regions Tradition field is as follows:
(subject to change)
Jay Don Blake
Jim Gallagher, Jr.
Chien Soon Lu
Tom Pernice Jr.