Elite Field Ready to Kick-Start Season


MasterCard ChampionshipKA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Defending champion Dana Quigley heads an elite field of 35 golfers who will tee it up Friday at the $1.7 million MasterCard Championship at Hualalai.
The Champions Tour event is limited to major championship winners over the last five years and other tournament winners in the last two. There are also four sponsors' exemptions, including Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange, who will be making their inaugural tour of the Jack Nicklaus-designed course on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The MasterCard Championship is the first of 29 events on the Champions Tour, which includes a new tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The senior circuit also travels to 17 states and Scotland for a total of $52.65 million in prize money.
The first full-field event is the Turtle Bay Championship next week on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where last year Quigley finished second to Hale Irwin, who will attempt to win that tournament a sixth consecutive time.
Quigley beat Tom Watson in 2005 in a three-hole playoff to win the MasterCard for the second time in three years. In 2004, he lost to Fuzzy Zoeller in a playoff. The only golfer to successfully defend this title is Al Geiberger (1992-93), when the tournament was played at La Costa Country Club in California.
The 58-year-old Quigley won the Jack Nicklaus Award for player of the year and the Arnold Palmer Award for being the leading money winner with $2.17 million.
He faces quality competition in the 54-hole event, including five members of the World Golf Hall of Fame in Watson, Crenshaw, Irwin, Tom Kite and Gary Player.
Crenshaw and Strange are not the only first-timers playing Hualalai this week. Joining them are Champions Tour rookie of the year Jay Haas, Loren Roberts, Mark Johnson, Mike Reid, Des Smyth and Ron Streck.
Roberts and Haas opened their season on the PGA Tour at last week's Sony Open in Hawaii. While Haas, who has never done well on the par-70 Waialae Country Club course, missed the cut, Roberts put together four good rounds to finish in a tie for 18th at 4-under 276.
Irwin is making his 10th consecutive appearance at the MasterCard event. He won in 1997. Other past winners at Hualalai in this year's field are Kite (2002), Quigley, Zoeller, Gil Morgan (1998), John Jacobs (1999) and Larry Nelson (2001).
Related Links:
  • TGC Airtimes - MasterCard Championship at Hualalai
  • Full Coverage - MasterCard Championship at Hualalai