The PGA Champions Tour season begins Friday with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, Hawaii and there are several plot lines as the senior set get ready to tee it up.
Bernhard Langer has dominated the tour the last few years, but the 61-year-old might be losing his grip on his reign. There are several players that could challenge him this year.
OG looks at five burning questions and tries to predict what might happen this season.
1. Will Bernhard Langer Break Hale Irwin’s Win Record?
Bernhard Langer is an ageless wonder, much like the man’s feat he is chasing. He has 38 victories on the Champions Tour and needs seven more to catch Hale Irwin’s 45.
The 61-year-old won just twice last year, which could be considered a down year for the German, seeing he won five times in 2017.
If he breaks the record it will likely take two years. That is not out of the realm of possibilities for a golfer who looks – and plays – like he is 10 years younger.
2. Will Steve Sticker Play More Events?
The next dominant player could be a part timer. Steve Stricker joined the Champions Tour two years ago, but has split his time between the PGA and Champions Tour.
In 2017 Stricker played in 13 events on the PGA Tour and six tournaments on the Champions, where he had five top 10s. Last year he played 12 events on the PGA Tour and seven on the Champions. He won three times on the Champions, and didn’t have a finish below fifth.
Stricker has said he still believes he can compete on the PGA Tour, but last year his highest finish was a tie for 12th. If he decides to focus solely on the Champions Tour, he could challenge Langer’s reign.
3. Which International Player will Dominate?
International golfers, especially Europeans, have done well on the senior circuit. Langer is the best player on tour, and Miguel Angel Jimenez won two majors last year. Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, and Paul Broadhurst also won events last year.
Who could be a non-US player in the winner’s circle this year? Irishman Darrin Clarke is the most likely. He became eligible last year, playing in just six events, and finished no better than a tie for 24th, but he should get over his rookie slump this year.
Another player to watch out for is Retief Goosen. The South African turns 50 on February 3, and is expected to play in several events. A former two-time US Open winner, he could definitely make some waves this year.
4. Will Scott Parel Repeat Last Season?
Scott Parel won two events last year, including a Schwab Cup Playoff tournament. The 53-year-old could always bomb the ball, but he improved his putting last year, which proved to be the difference.
“I’ve always driven the ball pretty well and hit it pretty well, but you’ve got to make putts on this tour to win,” Parel said. “My putting has been more and more consistent, even starting last year.”
Can he duplicate 2018 with another strong performance this year? As long as he continues to stay in the top 10 in putting average like he did last season, there is no reason to believe he won’t win again.
5. Can A Champions Tour Player Win on PGA Tour?
It is possible, but not probable. The last person to do it was Davis Love III in 2015 at the Wyndham Championship. He was 51 at the time. Since that victory, Love has not sniffed a victory on the PGA Tour, and has only one top 10 finish.
The competition on the regular tour has become intense. A player over 50 would have to pick a course that has a shorter layout, i.e.: Wyndham or John Deere, and have four perfect rounds.
Stricker and Scott McCarron could be possibilities, but Stricker did not have a top 10 last year, and McCarron is sticking with the Champions Tour.