By RICK BROWN, PCC Senior Reporter
Scott McCarron is making the most of his second chance.
“I just have to pinch myself that I still get to play golf for a living, and do what I love to do at 53 years old,” McCarron said.
McCarron has become one of the elite players on the PGA Tour Champions, and it all started at Wakonda.
McCarron’s first PGA Tour Champions victory came in his 18thcareer start, the 2016 Principal Charity Classic. He’s won nine more tournaments since, and $7.6 million in earnings. Only Bernhard Langer, who has won 14 times and $9.7 million since 2016, has been more successful.
“Sitting here now, the fact that I’ve won nine times since that one in 2016 is pretty amazing,” McCarron said. “But I’ve been looking at what Langer’s been doing over the years, he’s winning a bunch. I’m trying to win as many tournaments as I can, and put myself in position.”
McCarron birdied the final three holes at Wakonda in 2016 to win his first PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament since the 2001 BellSouth Classic.
“Any time you win a golf tournament, wherever you are, it always feels good coming back,” McCarron said. “And this one being my first win out on the PGA Tour Champions is very special.”
McCarron enters this week leading the 2019 Charles Schwab Cup points race. He’s won a tour-best $1,346,628, including titles at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and Insperity Invitational.
“It’s still really early in the season,” McCarron said. “We’ve got like 15 events left or something like that. Having the lead right now doesn’t mean too much, but I can keep increasing that lead and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Trying to predict who will have success on the PGA Tour Champions and who will struggle to find traction is an inexact science.
McCarron, who won three times on the PGA Tour, was prepared to make noise as soon as he turned 50.
“One, I think you’ve got to stay in good shape,” McCarron said. “That’s a big key. You’ve got to come here ready to play. I went and played on the Web.com for a year and a half just to kind of keep ready, to keep my game in shape. You’ve got to come out ready to play. I think guys who maybe take three or four years off and don’t play competitive golf have a tougher time transitioning to the PGA Tour Champions because these guys are good and they go low. I think you’ve got to be prepared and ready to go right from the start when you turn 50.”
McCarron also came to the PGA Tour Champions hungry to succeed.
“I think that I’ve had success because I’m hungry,” McCarron said. “I wanted to play well. I needed to play well. I had a decent career on the PGA Tour, but it wasn’t a career where I could rest on my laurels and go retire off into the sunset with a bunch of money.”
UCLA INVITATIONAL.McCarron tees off at 10:40 a.m. in Friday’s first round. He’s paired with some familiar faces in 2017 Principal Charity Classic winner Brandt Jobe and Ken Tanigawa, who won last week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. All three attended UCLA.
“I’m looking forward to that,” McCarron said. “We play every Tuesday together, Brandt, Kenny T. and I, and we have a great time. Brandt and I have known each other since 1983 and Kenny since 1985. We’re very comfortable with each other. I think it’s a great pairing.”
Tanigawa, the PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year last season, said after winning last week that playing every week with McCarron and Jobe helped his game.
“I enjoy Kenny’s company,” McCarron said. “He’s a great guy, and I’m really happy that he’s been successful out here. I believe he’s going to be one of the Top 10 players out here.”
Tanigawa is second to McCarron in the Schwab Cup race, and has won $863,168 this season.
Langer, who has won the Schwab Cup five times, is in third. Langer, who has been in Des Moines since Monday, was forced to withdraw from the Principal on Thursday. He had to leave to attend the funeral for his son’s father-in-law.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?Tom Lehman won last year’s weather-shortened Principal Charity Classic title with rounds of 66-65. Sunday’s final round was postponed.
“Look, everybody loves to win, there’s no doubt about it,” Lehman said. “I would never trade in a victory for any reason or to win any way. However, it’s a hollow ending for everybody. For the fans, for the players, for the guys who are chasing.”
Lehman said that Wakonda will play easier than it usually does because of the wet conditions.
“Old-style golf courses are wonderfully quirky in a way,” Lehman said. “Like these fairways that have a lot of slope. So this week with the wet conditions, it’s going to make the course that much easier because the slopes in the fairway are not going to repel many tee shots the way they can sometimes. So when it gets soft here, the scores get better. When it gets firm here, the scores go up.”