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AT&T Champions Classic: Any magic left?

Previous events, uncertain future provide backdrop for ’09 tournament

Posted: March 13, 2009 1:43 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
If this is the end, it’s going to be difficult to top the last two AT&T Champions Classics.

A lot of talk at Valencia Country Club this week has centered around the possibility of this being the last Champions Tour event at the course for the foreseeable future. AT&T decided to not renew its sponsorship of this event, leaving it in limbo for 2010 and thereafter.

Talk subsides today as the first round tees off at 10:10 a.m.

The three-day tournament saw Denis Watson withstand Loren Roberts and Brad Bryant in a three-hole playoff last year.

“I feel like I played the playoff holes extremely well and I got lucky and hit a great shot at the right time on 10,” Watson said of the hole where he won the tournament last year.

The South African’s 9-iron from 152 yards out rested just a couple of feet from the hole.

His tap-in gave him a victory.

The year before saw Tom Purtzer beat Roberts in a playoff.

This course lends itself to magic.

Watson was seven shots behind last year going into the final round, but a 65 on Sunday forced the playoff.

Golfers and Valencia Country Club officials have said the course is in its best shape since the tournament moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 2001.

Greens that are already fast have been firmer.

“They are the fastest greens of a non-major,” said Champions Tour golfer Jay Haas.

Haas said playing safe won’t get anybody a victory, but at the same time, many are expecting the winning score to be below 10-under.

Gil Morgan won it with a 14-under in 2004, Tom Kite did it at 12-under in 2006 and Tom Purtzer was at 10-under in 2007.

Purtzer and Kite have won the event at Valencia twice.

What do the winners at Valencia have in common?

“Not to sound like a smart-aleck, but they’re all good golfers,” Haas said.

But more specifically, great ball strikers, guys who can drive the ball and those with the complete game have the advantage.

Iron play will also be important with the greens being what they are.

Golfers who have been hot during the Champions Tour’s previous four events will also be factors.

No golfer has been better than Bernhard Langer.

The stoic German has been in the top 10 four times this year, including a victory in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

“I could have won all four of them,” Langer said. “If I continue in that form, hopefully I’ll be in contention this week.”

If anyone is due, though, it’s Roberts.

He won the ACE Group Classic Feb. 22 and is second on the money list this year, but more importantly, he has the sting of losing in two consecutive playoffs.

The 53-year-old hopes he can finally capture the magic.


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