Tom Lehman tees off Friday at the golf tournament that jump-started his 2011 season—one that resulted in more earnings than any player on the Champions Tour. But is the defending champion of the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton really the man to beat this week?
Here are the players, in addition to Lehman, on which to keep an eye when the expected field of 81 begins play for the sixth consecutive year at the Old Course at Broken Sound.
Mark Calcavecchia: The resident of Tequesta in north Palm Beach County gave Lehman a run for the money title last year, notching 15 top-10 finishes and earning more than $1.8 million. Read more about “Calc” in the February issue ofBoca Ratonmagazine.
Dan Forsman: After picking up only one top 10 finish in 20 events last year—due in part to an ailing left hip—Forsman stormed out of the gates in 2012, winning the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii last month by two strokes and nearly matching his earnings from all of last year ($307,000 for the win vs. $346,822 for 2011).
Jay Don Blake: It looks like Blake, one of the better bunker players on the tour, is picking up where he left off in 2011. He snagged a second-place finish at the opening Mitsubishi tournament—this after capturing the final event of last year (Charles Schwab Cup) and one other win in September, along with nine top-10 finishes and more than $1.5 million in prize money.
John Cook: Cook tied Lehman for most victories on the Champions Tour in 2011 with three, to go with more than $1.7 million in earnings. He finished tied for third at the Mitsubishi a few weeks ago, shooting three rounds under 70.
Michael Allen: The most accurate driver on the tour last year collected 10 top-10 finishes in only 19 starts. After tying for third at the Mitsubishi, Allen is looking for his second win on the Champions Tour—his lone victory came at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship.
Tom Lehman: The defending champion at the Allianz collected $2.08 million in prize money last year, 12 top-10 finishes and posted a scoring average of 69.22 (tied for second on the tour in 2011). Lehman finished tied for 12th at the Mitsubishi after opening with a 65.
Russ Cochran: The leftie racked up $1.5 million in prize money last year, collecting 11 top-10 finishes (in only 18 events).
Bernhard Langer: Don’t forget about the Boca resident and 2010 Allianz champ, who missed three months last year after having surgery on his left thumb due to a biking accident. Langer showed signs of returning to form late in 2011, notching top-25 finishes in six of his final seven events. The two-time Masters champion dominated the Champions Tour in 2010, winning five tournaments and earning $2.64 million in prize money.
2012 Allianz Championship
Where: The Old Course at Broken Sound, Boca Raton
When: Tournament from Feb. 10–12
Defending champion: Tom Lehman
Purse: $1.7 million
Tickets: Free admission to the tournament
TV: Golf Channel
Schedule: Feb. 9—Championship Pro-Am (shotgun starts at 7:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.); Feb. 10—First round (first group tees off at 9 a.m. throughout the weekend, unless weather dictates a change); Feb.11—Second round, plus Golf & Wine Experience; Feb. 12—Final round