By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter
Doug Habgood traveled to Biloxi, Miss., at the end of March to do some recruiting.
The tournament director of the Principal Charity Classic attended the Rapiscan Systems Classic, where he chatted up several players in an attempt to get them to come to Des Moines.
One of the players he reached out to was Vijay Singh. But Habgood’s pursuit of the World Golf Hall of Famer ended when he learned that Singh had committed to the Memorial on the PGA Tour, which is played opposite the Principal Charity Classic.
So Habgood got a pleasant surprise at 7:30 a.m. on May 25, the final day players could enter the Principal Charity Classic. Singh had changed his mind, and will make his Des Moines debut this week.
“That was great news,” Habgood said.
The 19thannual PGA Tour Champions stop has an impressive list of first-timers in the field.
Singh, who won 34 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2000 Masters and the 1998 and 2004 PGA Championship, and has added four victories on the PGA Tour Champions, won’t be the only major champion making his first stop in Des Moines. Also in the field is 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke and 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
Those three will bring an international flavor to the field. Singh is from Fiji, Clarke from Northern Ireland and Goosen from South Africa.
“This tour is U.S.-heavy,” Habgood said. “So getting more and more foreign players, especially decorated foreign players, is big. Just look at all the other tours. But this one, you look at the flags and you see a lot of stars and stripes. Now we’re starting to get more of these guys that are well decorated and turning 50.”
The Principal Charity Classic has had two foreign winners – Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe in 2009 and Nick Price, also of Zimbabwe, in 2010.
Price, who won the 1992 and 1994 PGA Championship and the 1994 British Open, is one of three major champions who have won at the Principal. That list includes defending champion Tom Lehman (1996 British Open) and 2015 winner Mark Calcavecchia (1989 British Open).
Brandel Chamblee, known best for his no-holds-barred analysis on the Golf Channel, and Gary Nicklaus, son of Jack Nicklaus, received exemptions and are two more new faces in the 78-player field.
“I think Gary Nicklaus is going to be a big hit here,” Habgood said. “And I think the timing with having Brandel Chamblee here couldn’t be better. Everyone has got Brandel on the mind. My interactions with him, he’s just a great guy. I think he’ll fit in well in the pro-am competition, the social settings, all those things.”
Joining Lehman and Calcavecchia as former champions in the field are Brandt Jobe (2017), Scott McCarron (2016), Tom Pernice, Jr. (2014), Russ Cochran (2013) and Jay Haas (2007, 2008, 2012).
Singh is one of four World Golf Hall of Famers in the field. That includes Goosen, who will be inducted June 10. Bernhard Langer, whose 39 PGA Tour Champions titles is second only to Hale Irwin’s record 45, and Sandy Lyle are the other two.
Ken Tanigawa, who won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Sunday at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., is also in the field. Tanigawa finished one shot ahead of McCarron and two in front of defending champion Paul Broadhurst. Goosen was fourth. All four players will be at the Principal Charity Classic.
McCarron maintained his lead in the Charles Schwab Cup race for a fifth straight week and passed $1 million in earnings for the season. McCarron won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic and Insperity Invitational this season, with seven top five finishes overall.
“I love the field we’ve got,” Habgood said.
That field will be playing for a sweetened purse, which was increased by $100,000 to $1.850 million. The winner will receive $277,500.
“Each player makes his own decisions,” Habgood said. “But whenever you can make an increase, I think they pay attention to those types of things. It may sway them one way or another, and that’s why we did it. It was definitely strategic. I think it keeps us in the upper echelon of the tour. And it gives some prestige to Principal and Wells Fargo and all the other sponsors.”