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AT&T Champions Classic: Tournament notes

Posted: March 9, 2009 1:58 a.m.
Updated: March 8, 2009 11:06 p.m.
 
Santa Clarita Valley golf fans, local residents and an international entourage of professional golfers and media converge on Valencia Country Club Monday through Sunday for the AT&T Champions Classic Golf tournament.

Here's a roundup of tournament notes:

PLAYOFF HISTORY: The Denis Watson-Loren Roberts-Brad Bryant playoff last year marked the first time since 1991 that three men were involved in sudden-death overtime at this event. The 2008 overtime session was the fifth playoff in tournament history. In 1991, former San Francisco quarterback John Brodie defeated George Archer and Chi Chi Rodriguez on the first extra hole. In 1993, Dale Douglass bested Jim Dent in a playoff. In 2002, Tom Kite's overtime win over Tom Watson gave him his fifth victory on the Champions Tour. Tom Purtzer's overtime win over Loren Roberts on the fourth extra hole in 2007 gave him his second Champions Tour title at Valencia.

COMING FROM OFF THE PACE: In the previous 19 tournaments, 14 have been decided by one stroke or in a playoff. Only seven players who have led or been tied for the lead after 36 holes have gone on to win. However, four of the previous eight tournaments at Valencia CC have been won by leaders/co-leaders heading into Sunday. In three of the last four years, a player has come from three or more strokes off the pace on Sunday to win, including Denis Watson's seven-stroke comeback last year, the biggest turnaround in a Champions Tour event since Allen Doyle rallied from nine strokes back to win the 2005 U.S. Senior Open. Only four of 19 first-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win and it's only happened once at Valencia CC. In 2004, was part of a five-way tie for the Friday lead and eventually defeated Larry Nelson by two strokes for his third win at this event.

FAMOUS FIRSTS: Mike Hill (1990), John Brodie (1991), Raymond Floyd (1992) and John Bland (1995) each won as first-time AT&T Champions Classic participants. Gil Morgan (1996-97) won his first two AT&T Champions Classics and Joe Inman (1997-98-99) won his first three AT&T Champions Classics. Who took the longest to win this event? Jim Colbert (2001) didn't win until his 11th attempt.

SIGNIFICANT WIN FOR COLBERT: Jim Colbert's one-stroke victory over Jose Maria Canizares in 2001 came two days after he turned 60 making him the event's oldest winner. Colbert's win at Valencia was also his 20th career title on the Champions Tour and made him the eighth of only nine players to reach this rare victory plateau. Colbert also became the 11th player over the age of 60 to win on the Champions Tour.

HOLES-IN-ONE: There have been eight holes-in-one in tournament history, but only two since the event moved to Valencia in 2001. Tom Purtzer (1st round/No. 16, 6-iron, 194 yards), the eventual 2003 champion, had the last ace and Hugh Baiocchi made an ace in the second round of the 2001 event (No. 3, 5-iron). World Golf Hall of Fame member Charles Sifford had the first hole-in-one in tournament history in 1990 at Rancho Park.

COURSE INFORMATION: The par-72 Valencia Country Club is traditionally one of the hardest courses for a non-major on the Champions Tour and in 2002, 2005 and 2006, it was the hardest for a non major. This is quite a change from the early years of the AT&T Champions Classic when Rancho Park annually ranked among the easiest layouts on the Champions Tour.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Larry Nelson's 20 birdies in the 1997 event remain the most in tournament history...Hubert Green holds the record for the fewest total putts in the event (73 in 1998)...Gil Morgan hit 49 of 54 greens in regulation in 1997, the most in event history...Only two players have won this event after starting with a round over par. In 2002, Tom Kite rebounded from a 2-over-par 74 to post scores of 64-70 on the weekend and win the event. Last year, Denis Watson shot 1-over 73 in the first round, but managed to shoot 71-65 and win a playoff for the title. Watson's opening score proved to be the highest by a winner on the Champions Tour last season...Loren Roberts has a streak of six straight sub-par rounds at Valencia Country Club while Jerry Pate has nine straight scores of par/better on this course....Des Smyth's total of 5-under 211 in 2005 and Tom Kite's score of 4-under 212 in 2002 were the highest winning scores for 54-hole events on the Champions Tour that particular year...J.C. Snead is the only player to not make a bogey during the AT&T Champions Classic, doing so in 1994. However, even though he didn't make a bogey, Snead still finished T10 in the event. He made par on 46 of the 54 holes that year and made par on all15 par-3 holes....Richard Bassett is the only player to make 18 pars in a round, doing so in Round 2 of the 1994 event...In his 1992 victory, Raymond Floyd made birdie on each of the 12 par-5s he played at Rancho Park...John Mahaffey birdied all four par-3s in Round 3 of the 2001 event at Valencia.

MORE GOOD STUFF: Gil Morgan is the youngest winner in tournament history, claiming the 1996 title just 11 days after turning 50. Morgan's first victory at this event still makes him the second youngest winner in Champions Tour history, one day older than Bobby Wadkins (2001 Lightpath Long Island Classic)...The lowest finish ever by a first-round leader/co-leader was when John Schlee was T60 after sharing the opening-round lead with Gary Player in the inaugural event in 1990...No 36-hole leader/co-leader at this event has ever finished outside the top 10. The lowest finish was when Larry Ziegler shared the Saturday lead with Isao Aoki and George Archer in 1993 and wound up T8...The biggest 36-hole lead in tournament history was three strokes by Larry Gilbert (1995), Jim Colbert (1997) and Gil Morgan (2004). Only Morgan went on to win that particular year.

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