Although top money leader Bruce Lietzke and Watson are skipping this week's event, the Kroger Senior Classic (Friday 1:30PM ET on The Golf Channel) does boast an impressive list of competitors with 14 of the top 20 scheduled to compete.
Last year, Bob Gilder withstood a course-record charge by Tom Jenkins to capture the event. Trailing by one shot with two holes to go, Gilder birdied the 17th from three feet to force a playoff with Jenkins, who tied the course record of 62 set earlier in the day by Bruce Lietzke. On the second extra hole, Gilder knocked his second shot to within a foot for his second straight victory and his fourth triumph in seven weeks.
After 12 years at the Grizzly course at Kings Island, the event moved to the Arnold Palmer-designed TPC at River's Bend last year, just 25 miles from downtown Cincinnati.
With the win, Gilder became the 13th different winner of this event. Mike Hill and Isao Aoki have come the closest to repeating as champions when they were runners-up after winning in 1996 and 1997, respectively. When Hubert Green captured the 2000 event, he became the first player in event history to shoot a round in the 70s and win. All the other 12 winners have never carded a round in the 70s.
A milestone of sorts will occur this week as Hale Irwin, the winningest player in Champions Tour history with 37 career wins, will make his 200th career start on the Champions Tour at the Kroger Senior Classic. No player has had as impressive a run on the Champions Tour as Irwin. In addition to his 37 victories, Irwin has also finished second 35 times and third a total of 19 times.
Another streak to make mention, Dana Quigley is playing in his 225th straight event that he has been eligible for and the 210th straight overall. Mike Hill has earned more money than any other player at this event with earnings totaling $401,659, including a victory in 1995 and runner-up finishes in 1993 and 1996. Isao Aoki is second with $355,057 followed by Gil Morgan with $348,685.
The Champions Tour moves to Maryland next week for the Constellation Energy Classic, where J.C. Snead is the defending champion.