BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Tom Watson gives an edge to the long hitters at rain-soaked Shoal Creek.
Watson figures guys like Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry and Fred Couples could have an easier time of it on some holes in rainy, chilly and windy weather at the $2.2 million Regions Tradition starting Thursday. It is the first of the Champions Tour’s five major championships.
“The par 5s really play into their hands,” Watson said on Wednesday. “The rest of us, we’re stretching it getting to the par 5s, especially when it gets wet.
“With the predicted rains, it will be tough to get to these par 5s. But Kenny and Freddie Couples shouldn’t have a lot of problem.”
Then there’s Langer, who has already won twice this season and reached 20 victories on the 50-and-over tour.
“The way Bernhard Langer is going, we need to break his leg,” Watson joked.
The weather could once again have a big impact on the scenic 7,145-yard, par-72 Shoal Creek course.
Rain shortened the pro-ams on Wednesday with more showers expected on Thursday and temperatures possibly plunging into the 40s over the weekend.
Play was twice suspended in last year’s Tradition, the second straight year rain and/or lightning had affected the tournament.
It remains to be seen if rain can slow down Langer, coming off his third victory at the Insperity Invitational and finishing eighth at the Masters.
“The rain will make the course play much longer,” the German said. “The rough will be heavier because of the wet grass. The greens will be a little bit slower. I’d rather see the other conditions, but I’ve played well in all sorts of conditions. You just have to adjust and do the best with what you find.”
Langer finished second behind two-time winner Tom Lehman in 2012 and 10th last year.
He beat Couples by a stroke at The Woodlands in Texas on May 4. David Frost held on for a one-stroke win over Couples last year at Shoal Creek.
Couples opened the season tying for second with Jeff Sluman in Hawaii, behind Langer.
“Fred Couples made it pretty clear, I think, in Hawaii, that he’s trying to win the Schwab Cup, so we’re trying to give him some competition here and make it hard for him,” Langer said.
Fellow World Golf Hall of Famers Watson and Colin Montgomerie aren’t as well acquainted with the course as some of their peers.
Watson, a two-time Masters champion, is competing in the Tradition for the first time since the event’s debut at Shoal Creek in 2011. He finished tied for 32nd.
His history with the course goes back a few decades, though, to the 1984 PGA championship won by Lee Trevino.
Watson said the Bermuda rough was so deep “they had three marshals on each side of the fairways because you could lose your golf ball.”
“Lee Trevino, it was right in his wheelhouse,” he said. “He hit the ball so straight off the tee, and he just rarely missed a fairway. And that’s what you had to do on this golf course.”
Montgomerie of Scotland is nearing his anniversary on the 50-and-over tour and makes his Shoal Creek debut. He said the course has a good reputation.
“I’ve heard a lot about it,” Montgomerie said. “You talk about you’re going to Alabama and then you say ‘Shoal Creek’ and everybody in golf knows where you’re going or where you’ve been. This is one of those classic courses. Having played nine holes (Tuesday) and nine holes today, I understand what they’re talking about. A very, very good golf course.
“You can drive the ball great but at the same time it’s more of a second-shot course where I can see there are some pins in awkward places — backside, middle, front, whatever. It will be a great test. I’m looking forward to trying to challenge this course.”
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