CALGARY — Davis Love III got a good glimpse of the Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club on Thursday, a day in advance of competing at the Shaw Charity Classic for the first time.
The 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Fame member liked what he saw from the par-70, 7,086-yard layout.
“I learned the course pretty well today,” said Love, who will make his 13th PGA Tour Champions start of the season. “The greens are great and the course is in really great shape, so I’m excited to get playing.”
In order to win his first PGA Tour Champions event, Love will have to fend off challenges from the likes of defending Shaw Charity Classic champion Scott McCarron as well as fellow World Golf Hall of Fame members Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Mark O’Meara and Vijay Singh.
“The field here is really, really strong of players that people should recognize or remember,” said Love, who won 21 times on the PGA Tour including the 1997 PGA Championship, his lone major title. “I looked at the list and saw Bernhard and Monty and Scott McCarron and a bunch of guys.
“It’s the same guys that I’ve been banging heads with for a long time. I don’t look at it as any different than when I played on the PGA Tour. I just have to shoot really low scores. If you come out and watch, you’re going to see names that you recognize shooting extremely low scores and playing high-level golf.”
McCarron agreed with his long-time rival.
“Even though it is a different stage, it kind of still feels the same,” said McCarron, who carded a score of 16-under 194 to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez by one stroke last year. “A lot of us, we even competed in college against each other. When you’re trying to win a golf tournament, it feels exactly the same as it did on the PGA Tour.
“We’ve got nice crowds and good golf courses. We kind of pinch ourselves every once in a while. I’m 53 years old and I get to keep playing the sport I love for a living.”
In order to become the first champion to defend his title in the six-year history of the event, McCarron said he’ll have to continue to shoot low scores like he did last year when he carded rounds of 63, 64 and 67.
“I love this golf course,” he said. “It was a big win for me last year here. Coming back to defend in a place you enjoy, I’m looking forward to this week. The course is in great shape. I shot 16-under last year. I think it’s going to be that or maybe a few more this year, so you’re going to have to play some really solid golf.”
Eight of the top 10 golfers in the Charles Schwab Cup standings will compete at Canyon Meadows from Friday to Sunday, including Jimenez, who finished tied for third at the Boeing Classic in Seattle this week to move into the No. 1 position. He’s followed closely by Jerry Kelly and Langer, while McCarron hopes to rise up from fifth spot to have a chance to defend his Charles Schwab Cup title.
“We’ve got a great field,” McCarron said. “There’s a lot of guys here that have chances to win, so I’m going to have to play some really good golf to be up there and hopefully have an opportunity to do it on Sunday.”
The field also includes three Canadians in Rod Spittle, of Niagara Falls, Ont., Vancouver’s Stephen Ames, and Calgary’s Steve Blake, who received a sponsor exemption after qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open in June at Broadmoor golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I can’t even explain how much I’m looking forward to it,” Blake said. “It’s going to be so good playing in front of family and friends and having just turned 50 and being able to be out here already this quick is just a dream come true.”
While Blake will rub shoulders with several golfing legends for the first time in his hometown, Spittle has decided that this will be his final PGA Tour Champions start.
“I turned 63 a couple months ago, which is kind of hard to believe,” said Spittle, who had a top-10 showing earlier in August at the Dick’s Sporting Good Open in Endicott, N.Y. “As Annie, my wife and I, were looking at the schedule it just kind of seemed to make sense that since we were in charge of our schedule that we would finish here in Calgary and then kind of stay away from the playoffs and guys that are working hard to keep a job for next year.”