CARY — Bernhard Langer says Prestonwood Country Club will always have a special place in his heart.
He’s the defending winner of the SAS Championship, where he won his 16th Champions Tour title last year, and his son Stefan is a recent North Carolina graduate.
Langer is a major part of the star power of this weekend’s event, one of eight Hall of Famers. The final day of Pro-Am competition ended on a cool, wet Thursday; the real action starts at 10 a.m. Friday. The weather is supposed to be much better this weekend.
“It’s certainly one of my favorite events,” said Langer, who has won twice this year, leads the tour in earnings and is second behind Kenny Perry in the Charles Schwab Cup points standings. “I love the people here and I love the golf course. …
“It has a good layout of holes where it’s slightly longer, I think, than some of the golf courses we play. I talked to my caddie about it. Even when it’s dry it’s not too many wedges into these greens.
“It’s a lot of medium irons – right now, long to medium irons because it’s wet. It’s just you have to hit the fairways because coming out of this Bermuda rough it’s difficult to control the ball, the spin and the distance.”
Eighty-one pros are competing and the Hall of Famers include Nick Faldo, who is making his U.S. Champions Tour debut, and Colin Montgomerie, who is playing this tournament for the first time.
Faldo joked about not giving up the game.
“We’re very fortunate you can come back out and keep bashing away,” he said. “It’s nice to see old faces I’ve seen for the last 30 years as a pro.
“Some I wonder what the (heck) they’re still doing, so I’m lucky, I’m fortunate. We’re very fortunate in this game. There’s so many different avenues. There’s other sports, once you’re finished in an arena you’re done. So it was a good career decision 30 years ago.”
Montgomerie is a tour rookie, a virtual baby of the bunch since he turned 50 on June 23.
“I had to play catch-up here,” Montgomerie said. “I have found that, I think I’ll speak for everyone that joins the Champions Tour, that I was surprised at the standard of play …
“Fifty is younger than it used to be. Fifty is the new 40 – well, I’m telling myself that anyway. It’s amazing the standard of play is as good as it is, and I’m thrilled that it is, because if I do happen to do well or win anevent sometime down the road it’s very meaningful.”
Seven former SAS champions are in the field, including 2005 winner Hale Irwin. There are six North Carolina natives, five graduates of state universities and four North Carolina residents.
They also include Hall of Famer and Wake Forest alumnus Curtis Strange, 1998 Masters and British Open champ Mark O’Meara of Goldsboro, Raleigh native and Wake Forest grad Scott Hoch, and Smithfield’s Neal Lancaster.
Competition begins all three days at 10 a.m., with daily live coverage on The Golf Channel from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This week’s 7,212-yard championship course is a “hybrid” of the Meadow and Highlands courses.
• About 600 entrants are expected for Saturday’s 5K run on the back nine of the tournament course. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. race.