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Weather expected to be a low-scoring factor again at senior PGA

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Count Colin Montgomerie among those unsurprised by low scores in the Senior PGA Championship on his four previous visits to Jack Nicklaus-designed Harbor Shores.

“I love the course,” said the Scottish veteran, who won the first of his two senior PGA titles here in 2014 with a 13-under 271 for a four-stroke win over Tom Watson. “Some of the best golf courses in the world have weak holes. This is not the case. It has 18 very, very strong golf holes.

So, Montgomerie was asked, how did the last two Harbor Shores winners – American Rocco Mediate in 2016 and England’s Paul Broadhurst in 2018 – manage to go even lower with winning scores of 19 under 265?

“Very lucky with the weather,” added Montgomerie, who finished second to wire-to-wire winner Mediate at 268. “It’s a solid golf course, a playable golf course, and if you get favorable weather all over the world you can score.

The forecast for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday is for showers, with sunny skies for the weekend.

Golf’s ‘iron horse’, 64-year-old German Bernhard Langer, who has 11 major titles among his 43 victories against PGA Tour champions, agreed that Mother Nature usually trumps talent.

“If the weather is okay here you can come down here because of the conditions,” said the 2017 senior PGA winner. Langer also finished fourth in 2012 (against England’s 13 under 271 Roger Chapman), third in 2014 behind Montgomerie and six strokes behind Mediate for third place in 2016. Langer didn’t play in 2018 when Broadhurst beat Tim Petrovic by four strokes.

“The fairways are generous and there are a lot of shots where you have to commit. But if you hit the right pockets on the greens, you can go low.

Just like Broadhurst did in 2018. He started with a 72 but then played his last 54 holes in 20-under 193, with final rounds of 64 and 63 to claim victory. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out his return trip and that of the tournament in 2020 to Harbor Shores, where Germany’s Alex Cejka – who won the senior PGA last year at Southern Hills in Tulsa – is the champion In title.

“It’s nice to come back and play on a course that you know you played well on,” said Broadhurst, whose final round 63 included four putts from 30 feet or more. “I don’t think it’s a particularly difficult driving course. It is about positioning the ball on the greens. It’s huge here.

Cejka, who won back-to-back majors (Regions Tradition and Senior PGA) in 2021, is learning to learn Harbor Shores. He didn’t play on media day at the end of March – the wind chill was in the low 20s – so Cejka flew here on Monday of PGA Championship week for a practice round before heading to Tulsa, where he missed the cut.

“The course is already tricky, tough around the greens when you’re not hitting really good shots,” Cejka said. “It all depends on the weather.”

Cejka is one of many golfers playing at Harbor Shores for the first time. The group is led by New Zealander Steve Alker, who leads the tour with $1,183,961 thanks to six top-10 finishes, including his two wins which are matched by Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is second with 952. $708.

The ‘young guns’ – Cejka is 51 and Alker is 50 – also include South Africans Retief Goosen (53) and Ernie Els (52), who are third and ninth on the money list. Long-hitting Irishman Padraig Harrington has played in five events since turning 50 and is three seconds behind Regions Tradition champion Steve Stricker.

Stricker and Harrington were captains of the Ryder Cup teams that sailed 118.2 nautical miles northwest of Lake Michigan to Whistling Straits, Wisconsin last September; the United States won 19-9. Sadly, Stricker, who tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday and retired on Tuesday, is the only golfer among the top 20 earners on the tour not to be here.

“I feel more comfortable here now,” said Harrington, who leads the circuit in driving distance (299.3 yards) and has already earned $504,416. “I really like the golf course. Lots of risk/reward – almost every hole has a hazard on the side. It kind of asks you to be brave.

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