Legends of Golf Tournament, Course Brings Unique Challenge

Published 06/02 2014 06:41PM

Updated 06/02 2014 06:49PM

RIDGEDALE, Mo. -- The Top of the Rock golf course at Big Cedar Lodge is not your ordinary golf course. It's a par-three designed by Jack Nicklaus.

This week's Legends of Golf Tournament is not your ordinary stop on the Champions Tour. You've never seen anything like it.

"It's unique,” says Tom Lehman, professional golfer and eight-time champion. “And historical."

"It's a fun event, a special event,” says Fred Funk, professional golfer.

"It's going to be exciting,” says John Cook, Champions Tour golfer.

The grizzled veterans of the Champions Tour are downright giddy about playing in this week's Legends of Golf Tournament.

Sure, the $2.75 million purse has something to do with it.

But the way that they play golf will be different.

"It's going to be unique to see the pros play some other type of format besides stroke play,” says Watson. “I can't wait for my partner Andy North and me to take on Cookie and the rest of the crew."

First of all, the golfers have formed two-man teams.

Tom Watson is teaming up with Andy North.

99 percent of the time on tour, the golfers are swinging clubs for themselves.

That will all change at Big Cedar.

"The key to that is putting,” says Champions Tour golfer Loren Roberts. “The guys who make putts can win the tournaments. Hopefully we can get that rocking and rolling."

There are also two golf courses in play.

Buffalo Ridge is a traditional 18-hole course, but the golfers will play at the par 3 Top of the Rock course for two of the three rounds.

"That's never been done, never been televised, this is a first,” says Watson.

Also the way the golfers play will change with each course. At Buffalo Ridge, they'll play a better ball competition.

Simply put, each teammate plays his own ball on each hole. The lowest score between the teammates will be recorded.

Over at the par three Top of the Rock, there are only nine holes, so the pros will play each hole twice.

The first time through, they'll play a foursome competition. Simply put, the teammates will alternate shots to the hole.

But the second time through, they'll play better ball, just like at Buffalo Ridge.

Sunday's final round will only be played at Top of the Rock.

"It won't even be interesting but it'll be challenging,” says Cook. “Thankfully we'll be playing a scramble and an alternate shot so I don't have to shoot a score."

We're not done.

There are also two divisions. The pros between 50 and 65 will make up the Champions Division.
The pros older than 65 will make up the Legends Division.

So, at the end of the day on Sunday, there will be two, two team winners.

"I think it's human nature to look at something different and wonder,” says Tom Lehman, U.S. Open champion. “Seemingly it seems like a unique format. It seems like it would be fun. But once we play we'll have a better idea of how it actually works and pans out."

Whatever happens, 84 pro golfers, thousands of Ozarks golf fans, and who knows how many watching on the Golf Channel will have seen the most unique tournament in the world.

Tuesday, June 2, is a practice day for all the Champions Tour pros.

Jeff Sluman is the defending champ in the Champions Division, but he'll have a new partner in Fred Funk.

He won with Brad Faxon, but he won't be here. His daughter is graduating from high school.

And Fred Couples has withdrawn because of lingering back issues.

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