The MasterCard Championship is comprised of Champions Tour winners over the last two years and major champions since 1998. There are also four exemptions on offer to players with 30 or more career PGA/Champions Tour victories (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player), bringing the field total to an even 40.
Tom Kite is the defending champion. He easily bettered John Jacobs a year ago at the Hualalai course in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, winning wire-to-wire by six strokes.
Kite went on to add two more victories on the year to up his Champions career total to six. He also joined Nicklaus, Al Geiberger and Don January as the only players to win the season-opening event on both the PGA and Champions tours.
Jacobs, the 1999 champion, didnt get another trophy, but he did produce the shot of the tournament when he double eagled that 556-yard, par-5 10th. It was the first double eagle of his career.
This is the 20th playing of the event. Geiberger, in 1992 and 93, is the only player to successfully defend his title; though, Miller Barber (1986, 89) and George Archer (1990, 2000) have also won twice.
Hale Irwin won the first time the tournament was contested at Hualalai, in 1997. It is one of 9 victories he has in the Aloha State since joining the 50-and-over circuit.
He missed adding a 10th last week in Maui at the ConAgra Foods Champions Skins Game. He finished second behind Lee Trevino.
Nicklaus had a solid performance last week by finishing third, with seven skins and $160,000.
This weeks winner will get $250,000 of the $1.5 million purse.