Not unlike the way the PGA Tour dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, the PGA Tour Champions combined its 2020 and 2021 campaigns into a “super season” of 36 tournaments that culminates with the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. The three-event series played over the next four weeks begins Friday in Richmond, Va., with 72 players trying to work their way into the top 36 on the points list and become eligible for the 2020-21 finale, where golfers will vie for the points title and an accompanying $1 million annuity.
Here are five things you need to know to be ready for the playoffs.
The playoff events are as follows:
Oct. 22-24: Dominion Energy Charity Classic, C.C. of Virginia, Richmond, Va.
Nov. 5-7: TimberTech Championship, Old Course at Broken Sound, Boca Raton, Fla.
Nov. 11-14: Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Phoenix C.C.
This week in Richmond, 72 golfers are in the field playing for a total prize money payout of $2 million with the winner making $300,000. All money earned is doubled and turned into points that are added to a player’s total entering the playoffs. The top 54 golfers this event advance to Boca Raton, where the purse is also $2 million with $300,000 for the winner. The same double points formula is in effect, added to the season-long total and the top 36 players qualify for Phoenix.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, players will compete in a 72-hole event that will award its own individual title and prize money from a purse of $2.5 million (first place gets $440,000). Money earned in Phoenix is doubled and added one last time to the season-long points. No. 1 on the points list after Phoenix earns a $1 million annuity paid over 10 years. The next four players on the points list also earn annuities: $500,000 for second; $300,000 for third; $200,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth.
Bernhard Langer has won the Charles Schwab Cup five times in his illustrious senior career, including four of the last six that have been awarded. Suffice it to say, he’s in a good spot to grab it for an sixth time this year. The 64-year-old leads the points list starting the playoffs with 2,854,999 points, 71,194 more than Jim Furyk. In third place is Jerry Kelly (297,998 back) followed by Miguel Angel Jimenez (306,101 back) and Ernie Els (376,554).
Langer has won only once in the super season (the Cologuard Classic back in March 2020), but he has an amazing 23 top-10 finishes, seven more than the next best player on tour. With 41 senior victories, the chance of him surpassing Hale Irwin’s 45 wins is fading, but writing him off for the another Schwab Cup title is something you do at your own peril.
Since turning 50 in June 2020, Phil Mickelson has made four starts on the PGA Tour Champions and has won three times, including the 2020 Dominion Energy event and most recently two weeks ago at the Constellation Fuyrk & Friends. Lefty’s success rate in senior events has many wondering how he might do if he fully committed to playing on the 50-and-older tour.
Mickelson, 26th on the points list, is certain to qualify for Boca Raton if he chooses to play, and with anything close to a reasonable finish in Richmond, he will have all but locked up a spot in the tour finale if he wants it. The question is, does he want it? He’s hinted about playing in Phoenix and has said he’s debating Boca Raton. His participation would be a big boost for the PGA Tour Champions.
The one thing that might sway him not to play? Mickelson starts the playoffs 1,786,056 points back of Langer. Even if Mickelson swept all three playoff events—not as preposterous a scenario as it appears on its face—he would only earn 2,080,000 points. With no-cut tournaments awaiting, Langer and Furyk are likely to earn enough to prevent Mickelson from being able to jump them in the points total, making a scenario in which he wins the Charles Schwab Cup—despite winning six senior titles during the season—still a long shot.
He’s been overshadowed by Langer and the arrival of World Golf Hall of Famers Ernie Els, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk to the tour, but Miguel Angel Jimenez has been a consistent presence on the tour since turning 50 in January 2014. The 57-year-old Spaniard has 10 career wins including two this season, along with 15 top-10 finishes. He is fourth in the points list to start the playoffs, and in his last six senior starts he’s finished T-3/T-8/2/T-4/2/P-2 with 15 of 20 rounds in the 60s. If you’re looking for a pick not named Langer or Mickelson to win the playoff title, Jimenez is a pretty solid choice.