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GET INTO GOLF: Best of both worlds

John Renslow
Get Into Golf
John Renslow

Last week we introduced the PGA Tour’s annual playoff schedule. It is a three-week event that begins with the top 125 players on the FedEx points list, then reduces to 30 players in the Tour Championship finale.

Yet, what if someone was old enough and still playing well enough to play on both the Regular Tour (that Lee Trevino called “the flat bellies”) and the Champions Tour (minimum age of 50 years)?

Phil Mickelson entered the first week of the FedEx playoffs on bubble. He was 67th on the list and the top 70 advance to the second stage. Unfortunately, Phil would not have his best week and fell to 75th on the list, out of the playoffs.

One would expect, with a couple of weeks off until his next scheduled Regular Tour event, that Phil would head home and take some time to rest and prepare.

But wait, Phil just turned 50 years of age a couple of months ago. A Champions Tour event was on the calendar and Phil was on his way.

For the Champions Tour, the season long playoff system is sponsored by Charles Schwab. So, Phil’s debut with the senior set took place at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozark National in Missouri.

What a lot of people may not pay attention to is the length of the golf course for the Champions Tour. For the Regular Tour the golf courses are set up with yardages averaging around 7,200 yards. The Champions Tour average length is the 6,700 range. This difference is significant, specifically for Phil. If you have followed Phil over his career, you find a guy who may not be the best at hitting fairways, but is truly remarkable at short game shots. His chipping, pitching, and bunker shots, as a whole, may be the best on tour.

So, you take a guy who hits the ball a ton, has a great short game, but if he has a weakness it is accuracy off the tee. Now, we place him on a shorter golf course. He can spray a few tee shots and, rather than having a 6-iron or 7-iron left for his second shot, he gets to hit a wedge.

Put a wedge in Phil’s and guess what you get. The lowest score shot on the Champions Tour since 2013. His 22-under par total ties the lowest 54-hole tournament score ever.

Also, with this win, he is immediately in the top 15 of the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab playoff points. He could play in the Champions Tour playoffs with just this one event.

He’s still a great player and on any given week can compete with players who chronologically could be his children. At the same time, we will likely have the opportunity to see Phil in the final groups as one of the younger guys on the Champions Tour.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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