Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Champions Tour Adds Major Star Power; Couples and Pavin Make Debuts Today on 50-and-Over Circuit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Champions Tour Adds Major Star Power; Couples and Pavin Make Debuts Today on 50-and-Over Circuit

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

The captains are coming to the Champions Tour.

Fred Couples and Corey Pavin help form perhaps the deepest rookie class in the history of the 50-and-over circuit and bring major championship credentials to the 2010 season.

The tour opens today with the first round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at the Hualalai Golf Course in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Heading the field are Couples, a two-time Players Championship winner and captain of the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team in 2009, and Pavin, 1994 U.S. Open champion and current U.S. Ryder Cup captain. They'll be joined next month by Paul Azinger, the captain of the U.S. team that won the 2008 Ryder Cup.

Couples (15 PGA Tour titles), Pavin (15) and Azinger (12) combined to win 42 PGA Tour events and three major championships. They're at the head of a group of Champions Tour "rookies" that later this year will include three more players who won 10 or more Tour events: Kenny Perry (14 victories), Mark Calcavecchia (13) and David Frost (10). Perry turns 50 on Aug. 10, Calcavecchia on June 12 and Frost on Oct. 11.

There are 13 other past Tour winners who are either 50 now, or will turn 50 during the season. That list includes seven-time winner Bill Glasson (April 29), 1990 Players champion Jodie Mudd (April 23), 1991 British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch (Oct. 24) and Ponte Vedra Beach resident and 1992 PGA Tour rookie of the year Mark Carnevale (May 21).

Couples, Pavin, Azinger, Calcavecchia and Baker-Finch also won major championships.

"This certainly has to rank as one of the best rookie classes on the Champions Tour," said Michael Stevens, the tour's president. "This tour is no cakewalk. You've got to really be able to play to survive out here, with the influx of players we keep getting."

Champions Tour officials hope Couples, one of the most popular PGA Tour players before the arrival of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, makes an immediate impact. Couples actually was eligible to play two Champions Tour events last fall, but he decided to make his debut this year.

"I have been looking forward to being 50," Couples said last week during a news conference promoting the Champions Tour Skins Game. "Ten years ago, I told people I would have no interest playing the Champions Tour because it was too much of a grind. So now, I'm really looking forward to having fun and seeing the fellows. To be honest, I don't really care if I don't play great golf."

Pavin said he looks forward to "playing against guys I've known my whole life, and that will be fun from a social aspect. I'll play courses that suit my game more. It will be fun."

Couples and Pavin said they will follow the recent example of players such as Fred Funk and craft a hybrid schedule of Champions Tour and PGA Tour events. But it won't be long before they're on the Champions Tour almost all the time. …

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