September 20, 2007

Champions Tour Swings Through Cary
SAS Championship begins Friday 

By Tim Candon, Sports Editor


The PGA Champions Tour makes its swing through Cary this week for the SAS Championship. This marks the 50-and-over circuit's seventh trip through Cary.

If you're planning to go, here's what you need to know.

The basics

What: Seventh annual SAS Championship presented by Forbes

When: Friday-Sunday, Sept. 21-23

Where: Prestonwood Country Club

Par: 35-37-72. Yards: 7,197

Format: 54 holes, stroke play

Purse: $2 million ($300,000 to the winner)

Tickets: Click here or call 919-531-GOLF

Past champions

All five past champions are scheduled to be in the 2007 field.

In 2001, Bruce Lietzke held off Allen Doyle and Gary McCord to win by three strokes.

In 2002, Lietzke won again. He began his title defense with a 72 in the first round but came back on the second day and fired a then-course record 63. Lietzke outlasted Gil Morgan and Sammy Rachels to win his second title by four strokes.

In 2003, D.A. Weibring finished eagle-birdie on the 53rd and 54th holes to beat Tom Kite and Bobby Wadkins by one stroke.

Craig Stadler became the tournament's first wire-to-wire winner in 2004, when he set a tournament scoring record by finishing 17-under-par. Stadler shot a final-round six-under 66 to win by six strokes.

In 2005, Hale Irwin won by two strokes over Bob Gilder and Jenkins after making eagle on the 17th hole in the final round. Irwin is the Champions Tour all-time victory leader with 45 and has earned over $30 million on the Champions Tour.

Jenkins, who also tied for second in 2004, won his seventh Champions Tour event when he won the 2006 SAS Championship. Jenkins was at 10-under 134 through 36 holes and was declared the champion when the final round was cancelled due to poor weather.

Other notable players in the field

Jay Haas, who is the current Champions Tour money leader ($2.2 million in 2007), is scheduled to play.

Loren Roberts, who is third on the money list and has 12 top-10 finishes this year, is also in the field.

Nick Price, Bernhard Langer and Jeff Sluman will all make their 2007 Champions Tour debuts in Cary this weekend.

Tom Kite, Lee Trevino, Larry Nelson and Isao Aoki, who are all in the World Golf Hall of Fame with Irwin, Price and Langer, also will play.

Will scores continue to rise?

Every year since 2003, the SAS Championship's scoring average has increased. In 2003, the field had an average score of 71.433 per round. Last year, it was a tournament-high 72.908.

It has only decreased once. Average scores dropped from 71.944 in 2002 to 71.433 in 2003.

Last year, there were 80 rounds over par versus 73 rounds of par better.

The par-4 10th hole was the most difficult, with an average score of 4.294 and only 12 birdies. The par-5 17th was the easiest. It had an average score of 4.458.

Players to watch

No one's been more consistent through the years at Prestonwood than Jenkins. The reigning champion has played 12 straight rounds at par or better. He is a combined 52 strokes under par in his six appearances in the tournament.

However, in Jenkins' six previous title defenses, his best finish was a tie for third at the 2005 Blue Angels Classic. Jenkins, winless so far on tour this year, has won at least one event five years running.

So if you're of the betting persuasion, keep an eye on ...

• Jay Haas. He has 16 top-10 finishes this year, including four wins and four second-place finishes. He is also leading the race for the Charles Schwab Cup, which rewards the top performers points based on official money won by top-10 finishers throughout the season.

• R.W. Eaks. Eaks earned his second Champions Tour victory of the season last week when he won the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. He has 11 top-10 finishes this season. Eaks held a one-stroke lead after 36 holes lead at Prestonwood in 2005 before finishing tied for 10th.

• Andy Bean. He has shot par or better in all 11 rounds he's played in the SAS Championship at Prestonwood.

• Loren Roberts. He has played in 19 events this year and has 12 top-10 finishes. Last year, he was bogey-free through 36 holes.

Odds and ends

Sixty-six is the magic number. In 2001, 03, 04, 05 and 06, the eventual winner shot a final round 66.

Whoever takes the lead into the weekend probably won't win. Craig Stadler is the event's only winner to lead after 18 and 36 holes. Stadler also holds the tournament scoring record (199).

Tom Kite holds the single-round scoring record. He shot 11-under 61 in the final round of the 2003 tournament.

Contact Tim Candon at 460-2606 or