By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Seven golfers who have combined to win the Senior PGA Championship 11 times highlight the field for this week’s first major of the 2012 Champions Tour season at the Club at Harbor Shores.
But one who won’t be in the field is defending champion Tom Watson. He was forced to withdraw with a wrist injury (pinched nerve) that has been slow to respond. However, Watson will be in Benton Harbor, Mich., where he will host the Champions Dinner on May 22.
That makes Tom Lehman (2010) and Michael Allen (2009) the most recent Senior PGA Championship winners. They will be joined by two-time champion Jay Haas (2006, 2008) and four-time winner Hale Irwin (1996, 1997, 1998, 2004). The other champions in the field are Mike Reid (2005), Dennis Watson (2007) and Tom Wargo (1993).
Watson won the title at Valhalla Golf Club last year in a playoff over David Eger. At 61, Watson became the second oldest player to win a major championship with a final-round 2-under 70 to finish at 19-under 278. Irwin, just days short of his 66th birthday, was in contention throughout the championship and finished fourth at 8 under.
The Club at Harbor Shores is a new Jack Nicklaus design built as a centerpiece of the urban redevelopment of Benton Harbor.
This week’s Power Rankings for the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid:
1. Michael Allen
Photo caption and photo attribution
The 2009 Senior PGA Champion is in fine form, posting back-to-back victories in April at the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am at Tampa Bay and the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, with partner David Frost. Allen tops the Charles Schwab Cup points list by a wide margin.
2. Fred Couples
Couples lost a playoff at the 2010 Senior PGA Championship to Tom Lehman. He’s looking for consecutive Champions Tour major titles after claiming the Senior Players last August in a playoff against John Cook. Couples is tied with Allen for No. 1 in scoring average at 68.67.
3. Fred Funk
Funk is back in stride after overcoming a series of physical setbacks. His victory at the Insperity Championship could signal a big move by Funk, who is No. 1 in Driving Accuracy on both the Champions Tour and PGA Tour – at 80 percent fairways hit on each.
4. Tom Lehman
The 2010 champion posted his best finish of the year at the Insperity Championship, finishing a shot behind Funk. Lehman is No. 1 in both Total Driving and Greens in Regulation, and those will be key factors at the new Harbor Shores.
5. Kenny Perry
When he’s been good this season on the Champions Tour, he’s been very, very good – a victory at the ACE Group Classic and runner-up in Tampa. But those are his only top-10 finishes in six starts. This is one he wants, so look out.