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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Todd Kelly

Bernhard Langer chases record; Justin Leonard and Notah Begay join the fun: Five things to know about the 2023 PGA Tour Champions season which starts Friday in Hawaii

It was just a little more than two months ago Steven Alker was putting the finishing touches on his first Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Now with the 2023 PGA Tour Champions season upon us, it’s fair to ask if the senior circuit torch has been passed from Bernhard Langer to Alker.

Once again, the circuit starts in Hawaii, and the first event is reserved for winners of tournaments a season ago or past tournament champs at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on the Island of Hawaii.

The 54-hole tournament starts Friday, Jan.19 and concludes on Sunday, Jan. 21 at Hualalai Golf Course.

This is the 44th season of the Champions tour.

Steven Alker train keeps rolling

Steven Alker reacts after making his final putt on the 18th hole to win of the 2022 Charles Schwab Cup. (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK)

A true-to-life, out-of-nowhere story, Steven Alker Monday-qualified into his first Champions event within a month of turning 50 and that triggered something.

Five wins and 27 top-10s in just 33 starts on the PGA Tour Champions later, Alker heads to Hawaii as the top dog.

On Tuesday, Alker collected some serious hardware, as he won the 2022 Jack Nicklaus Award as the PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year. He had already earned the Arnold Palmer Award which goes to the tour’s money leader. Alker made $3,544,425 in 2022; that’s the second most in a single season in Champions tour history. He also officially earned the Byron Nelson Award for having the best scoring average (68.27).

Justin Leonard joins the fun full-time

Justin Leonard plays his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the 2022 PNC Championship at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

A long-time on-air analyst for Golf Channel, Justin Leonard recently told Golfweek: “Just in the last year or so I have gotten back into much more specific golf training.”

He turned 50 last June and made his first start on the Champions tour at the 2022 Bridgestone Senior Players Championship about a month later. A tie for 61st was not the start he wanted but he did make three more starts, posting two top-20s. Now his senior circuit journey begins for real in Hawaii.

Who else may join the circuit in 2023?

Stewart Cink hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during the third round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)

There are some notable names who dabbled in a few events a year ago or are turning 50, and thus becoming eligible, in 2023:

  • Stewart Cink, who won the 2009 Open Championship and won twice during the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, turns 50 in May.
  • Boo Weekley, who was on the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team and who last won on the PGA Tour at the 2013 Charles Schwab Challenge, turns 50 in July.
  • Notah Begay III, a long-time Golf Channel analyst who is a four-time PGA Tour winner, made two starts last season.
  • Tim O’Neal, who earned his Champions tour card via the Final Stage of Q-School in December.

Miguel Angel Jimenez back to defend

Miguel Angel Jimenez tees off on the 17th hole during the final round the 2022 Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Golf Club in Hawaii. (Photo: Chris Condon/PGA Tiour)

Miguel Angel Jimenez is a three-time winner of the season opener (2015, 2020, 2022) and returns as the defending champion. He edged Alker on the second playoff hole to win last year.

In all, Jimenez has 13 Champions wins, and has won at least one tournament on the circuit since 2014.

Bernhard Langer chasing history

Bernhard Langer plays his tee shot on the first hole during the second round of the 2022 Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Bernhard Langer has 44 victories on the Champions tour. A 45th win would tie the all-time mark with Hale Irwin. A 46th win would set the mark and likely put it out of reach for a long time.

Of the players on the tour’s all-time wins list who are still active, Fred Couples has the most victories at 14.

Langer, 66, won twice last season, including in November in the second-to-last playoff event.

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