Watson, Daly headline star-filled Shaw Charity Classic field

Tom Watson acknowledges the gallery after a birdie on the third hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Augusta, Ga.
Tom Watson acknowledges the gallery after a birdie on the third hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Since its inaugural tournament in 2013, the Shaw Charity Classic has been heralded as perhaps the best tournament on the Champions Tour, which showcases golf’s over-50 legends. This year’s tournament starts on Friday at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club and is led by some of the game’s greatest names, including multiple major winner Tom Watson, and golf hall of famers Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. The field also includes three Canadians and new Champions Tour John Daly, one of the game’s most popular players.

READ MORE: Scottish star Colin Montgomerie returning to Shaw Charity Classic

“I think [Daly] will be one of the chief draws in Calgary,” says Shaw Charity tournament director Sean Van Kesteren. “Everyone knows his name and the two questions I’ve gotten this year is whether Tom Watson is coming and is John Daly playing. We’ve got both.”

In all there will be 15 former major winners in the field, and 23 players with major championship wins on the Champions Tour. Overall the golfers in the field have 351 PGA Tour wins, and 244 Champions Tour titles.
The Shaw Charity Classic has raised more than $8.5-million for charity since its inception.

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Notable new names

Tom Watson—“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the tournament—especially the fan support,” Watson said earlier this year. “We players love to play in front of a lot of people I hear that’s what happens up there. I’m looking forward to coming up and putting my old bones to the test.”

Watson might be old—66—but that hasn’t kept him from being competitive well into his senior years. He’s perhaps most noted for his five British Open victories, as well as nearly winning the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry at the age of 59. Though he’s largely stopped playing PGA Tour events, including the Masters, Watson still feel competitive on the Champions Tour.

“When that time [to retire] comes, it’ll be based on a decision of whether I can be fairly competitive,” he says. “Fairly meaning really competitive—do I have a chance to win. Even though I’m 66 I can still get it every now and then. That’s what I enjoy doing.”

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John Daly—The past British Open and PGA Championship winner is one of the game’s most colourful characters, a golfer whose on-course play was often obscured by his antics away from the course. “With John you never know what you’re going to get, but he can really do special things with a golf ball,” says Shaw Charity tournament director Sean Van Kesteren. “Everyone knows John’s story and everyone pulls for him. And he still hits the ball farther than anyone out there on the Champions Tour.”

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Daly’s career never quite reached the heights many expected as problems with alcohol, gambling, and several divorces led to struggles on and off the course. His last win on the PGA Tour came in 2004, but he’s remained a great draw at tournaments around the world, and plays an active, busy schedule. He started playing on the Champions Tour earlier this year after turning 50 and while he’s not carded that elusive victory, Daly has shown some of the form that made him one of the most noted names in sports.

Returning stars

Colin Montgomerie—“As long as I’m a player on the Champions Tour, I’ll be playing in the Shaw Charity Classic,” said the Scottish golf star during an interview earlier this year. Montgomerie, a perennial star on Europe’s Ryder Cup team, played his first Shaw Charity Classic last year, and while he didn’t win, he did gain the support of the crowd.

“It is very different since I’ve joined the Champions Tour,” he says. “I’ve engaged with the fans and they’ve seen that and engaged back. It has worked both ways.”

READ MORE: Shaw Charity Classic shatters record for charitable donations

Bernhard Langer—After taking a year off from the Shaw Charity Classic, Langer, a former Masters winner who has had exceptional success on the Champions Tour, is back in Calgary.

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“This year it fits in again and I look forward to visiting,” Langer said. “I really enjoyed it two years ago. It was a great venue, a beautiful place and the people were terrific.”

At 59, Langer has won three times this year, including two Champions Tour major championships.

Canadians—There are three Canadians in the field. Former Calgary resident Stephen Ames will be playing at the tournament, alongside regulars Rod Spittle and Jim Rutledge.

Who’s not coming

Fred Couples—The most notable name missing from the list of players committed to the Shaw event is Couples, who won the tournament two years ago. Couples, a huge fan favourite even before winning the tournament in 2014 with the lowest final round of his career, has been dogged with back injuries for most of his career. He hasn’t played since the start of the year, skipping the Masters, and his agent told tournament organizers last week that the legend wasn’t healthy enough to come to Calgary.

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