There’s been a refrain at PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions events and Korn Ferry Tour events during the summer and fall in regards to an element that LIV Golf hasn’t yet been able to buy: history.
Whatever happens in the future with the breakaway professional tour, its winners at this point get the biggest paychecks in the game, nice trophies and perhaps some personal satisfaction in being part of something new.
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But legacy? A sense that their victory will be remembered years from now? The sheer emotion of winning a PGA Tour event, a major championship or securing their Tour card on the Korn Ferry Tour?
Not so much — at least not now.
Enter the PGA Tour Champions. The very name denotes what its members have accomplished. And those players bring their pedigrees and their still-lethal golf games to the First Coast this week for the Constellation Energy Furyk & Friends, at the Timuquana Country Club.
Tournament host Jim Furyk, a 17-time PGA Tour winner, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and the 2010 FedEx Cup champion, welcomes seven members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, led by multiple major champions Vijay Singh of Ponte Vedra Beach, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els and six-time Charles Schwab Cup champion Bernhard Langer; 18 players who have combined to win 30 majors; and six players who have combined to win seven Players Championships.
All but three of the top-30 on the Charles Schwab Cup points list are entered.
Players driven by more than money
PGA Tour Champions president Miller Brady said the Tour might be one of the purest forms of golf because most of the players in the field have cemented their legacy in the game and don’t necessarily need the money (the purse is $2 million, with the winner earning $360,000).
But they’re driven by something deeper.
“A lot of people questioned whether a lot of these guys would play a lot of the Champions Tour,” Brady said. “They have all the money they want. Maybe. But guys like Bernhard Langer, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els are still playing because they love to compete, love to get in the hunt and still get a huge thrill of trying to win. It’s unlike anything else for them.”
Furyk said that he’s hard-pressed to see the difference in the will to win between PGA Tour and Champions Tour players.
“You don’t get much more of a competitive spirit than these guys,” he said of his Champions Tour colleagues, 13 of whom have stroke averages in the 60s and 60 who are averaging less than 72 strokes per round.
Also in the field are four of the players tied for the Champions Tour lead in victories this season with three, last year's runner-up Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington, Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly.
“The competition has been amazing,” Brady said. “There are name players winning, and they’re winning a lot.”
Duval returns home
A feel-good local story this week also will be the return of Jacksonville native David Duval to Timuquana, a course where he grew up playing the game when his father Bob was the head professional.
Duval, who won the 1999 Players and 2001 Open Championship among his 13 PGA Tour titles, missed the age requirement by a month last year but played in a nine-hole charity event during the second round and saw enough of the tournament to want to lock it into his schedule.
"I was extremely impressed by Jim and Tabitha [Furyk] for what they have accomplished in the first year of this event," Duval said in a statement. "I have played more rounds than I can remember at Timuquana and it’s great now to be out on PGA Tour Champions and hear the players say how spectacular it is and how much they look forward to returning to Jacksonville. The fans and the area truly support the Constellation Furyk & Friends and as players, we feel that support and energy.”
Ian causes few issues
The area surrounding Timuquana was only brushed by the effects of Hurricane Ian and cleanup of leaves, small tree limbs and other debris was well underway the day after Ian passed the First Coast to the east.
The course took only 1.25 inches of rain and none of the temporary tournament structures was damaged.
"We got very lucky," said Timuquana director of golf Blanton Tessin. "We were prepared for more rain and possible wind damage but the storm stayed far enough away and the cleanup won't take long at all."
The extended forecast for the week was perfect North Florida fall weather: highs in the low-80s and lows in the 60s, without a chance of rain. It certainly looks like the tournament will be spared the day last year when the first round was suspended because of a violent thunderstorm.
Course open to public Friday
Tournament week begins with the Florida Blue Pro-Am on Monday, followed by a practice round and pro-ams on Wednesday and Thursday.
The public can begin coming to the historic Donald Ross course (which recently opened after a nine-month renovation project) for the first competitive round on Friday. Gates that day and on Saturday and Sunday will open at 9 a.m.
The players will have strong incentive this week. There are two more events in which players can earn points to make the top-72 and qualify for the three-tournament Schwab Cup playoffs.
Brady said the quality of the golf will be impressive for fans watching the 50-and-over set for the first time – and be charmed by the intimacy of their engagement with players, who smile, laugh, shake hands and sign autographs.
“You can have it both ways,” Brady said. “The light bulb goes off when they get out here. Almost all of them had great careers on the PGA Tour and they’re very laid back with fans and sponsors, but it’s still very competitive inside the ropes. I’m in awe all the time of how good these guys are, with their golf and with the fans.”
Furyk and Friends field
Contact Garry Smits at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Furyk & Friends ready for a star-studded week at the Timuquana Country Club