The Boeing Classic is back.
The PGA Tour Champions event returns to The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge after it was canceled last year because of the coronavirus.
The event for players 50 and older has had many dramatic finishes since it started in 2005, including in 2019, when Brandt Jobe rallied from seven shots behind in the final round.
Here are five of the top story lines for the tournament this year, which begins Friday.
Can Freddy contend again?
Seattle native and fan favorite Fred Couples has made no secret that a victory in front of the home crowd would be very special to him. He was in great position to accomplish that in 2019, holding a five-shot lead entering the final round.
What appeared to be the biggest crowd in tournament history came out to cheer Couples to what was expected to be an imminent victory, but a final-round 76 (13 shots worse than the day before) left Couples with this third third-place finish in the event.
At 61, Couples’ window of opportunity to win the Boeing Classic might be starting to close, but he comes into the event this year in great form, having finished in the top seven in his past five events.
Maybe this is the year he gets that elusive hometown victory.
The ageless Bernhard Langer
No golfer has been better nearing 64 (his birthday is Aug. 27) than the remarkable German, who is still churning out top-10 finishes. It seems just a matter of time before he sets the record as the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history.
Scott Hoch set that mark by winning at 63 years, 5 months, 4 days in 2019.
Langer’s last victory was in March of last year, but he has 14 top-10 finishes in 24 events since, including two seconds. Langer, third in the Schwab Cup standings, almost always plays well at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, winning in 2010 and 2016, and no one should be surprised if he is in contention in the final holes Sunday.
“The only thing that happens as you get older is you lose strength and you lose flexibility, so you’re going to be a little shorter,” Langer said at the Boeing Classic a couple of years ago. “But every other aspect of the game you can get better.”
The newest stars
Among the players who have turned 50 since the last Boeing Classic — and are in the field this week — are Ernie Els, a four-time major champion, Jim Furyk, a 17-time winner on the PGA Tour, and Mike Weir, who won eight times on the PGA Tour, including the 2003 Masters.
Furyk has won three times on PGA Tour Champions and is second in the Schwab Cup standings. Els has two victories and is in fourth in the Cup standings and Weir has one win and is in eighth place in the Cup standings.
Els has the advantage of already knowing the course, having participated in a charity skins game before the 2019 tournament when he was 49.
“I can’t wait,” Els said then about playing in the Boeing Classic. “I wish I was playing this year.”
Beware the underdog
The Boeing Classic field always has several former major champions and names that even casual golf fans would recognize. But it’s not always the big names who have won in recent years.
John Riegger won in 2013, his only PGA Tour Champions victory. Scott Dunlap got his only Tour triumph here in 2014, and Scott Parel was a relative unknown when he got the first of his three Tour victories at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in 2018.
Who will surprise this year? Stay tuned.
Back to normal … almost
It’s not just the Boeing Classic that is back. So is the Seahawks Rumble at the Ridge, the Monday event that features former Seahawk greats, Pro Football Hall of Fame members and celebrities. Also on tap: the two-day Korean Air Pro-Am that ends Thursday and the annual Boeing jet flyover Friday before the start of the tournament.
But it won’t be exactly the same. Masks will be required (and provided) on shuttle buses, and unvaccinated fans are being encouraged to wear masks while out on the course.
Schedule of events
Monday: Seahawks Rumble at the Ridge, 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday: Practice rounds, all day
Wednesday-Thursday: Korean Air Pro-Am, starting at 7 a.m. each day
Friday: Opening round starts at 11:30 a.m. (Boeing jet flyover at 11:15).
Saturday: Second round starts at 8:45 a.m.
Sunday: Final round starts at 8:45 a.m.