THE US Champions Tour plays its second major of 2012 this week with the US$2.2 million Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama.
Last year the tournament went right down to the wire with Tom Lehman defeating Australia’s Peter Senior on the second extra hole of a sudden death playoff.
Both these golfers are likely to feature prominently again but there will be 77 others in the field also battling for supremacy.
Two-time major winner Lehman hasn’t had the best of starts this year but he puts that down largely to the stellar season he had in 2011.
The American won three Champions Tour events in 2011 – including his major playoff against Senior – as well as capturing the season long Charles Schwab Cup title.
He played in a total of 29 events on various tours and says he was mentally exhausted as a result.
“I don’t know that I was really ready to play at the start of the  season,” Lehman said at the Shoal Creek course this week. “I played until the middle of December last year. I played 29 events, which is way more than I’d ever played anytime, any season. So I was pretty beat up, pretty tired and ready for a break, and I really didn’t get one.”
Lehman said it took him a couple of months to “regroup and reenergise” and his good recent performances have shown a big improvement.
Senior has been on the Champions Tour for two years and while having a number of close calls, including the playoff here last year, is still waiting for his elusive first win.
He had another near thing in Birmingham in 2010 when he played 54 holes of bogey-free golf to finish tied for second behind Dan Forsman in the Regions Charity Classic.
Barring the odd round – or the odd few holes – his recent form has been exemplary. The 52 year old actually shot a 59 – of sorts – recently.
At the Senior PGA Championship where he finished T4, Senior fired a 7-under-par 28 on the back nine during a final-round 63 at Harbor Shores and started last week’s opening round at the Principal Charity Classic with a 4-under-par 31 for a 59 on those combined back to back nines.
There’ll be plenty of opposition in Alabama with the 79 golfers due to compete having a combined 772 victories on the Champions and PGA TOUR.
Notables include the recently reaffirmed Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, 2012 Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman of Britain, and some very in form Americans in Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
2012 Regions Tradition Television Times on ESPN2
The Regions Tradition is being telecast in Australia on ESPN 2, with the only live session according to the schedules on Friday morning.
Round 1: Live Friday 8th June, 8.30am-10.30am. Replay 6pm-8pm.
Round 2: Saturday 9th June, 6pm-8pm. Round 3: Sunday 10th June, 6pm-8pm. Round 4: Monday 11th June, 6pm-8pm.
2012 Regions Tradition Live Leaderboard2012 Regions Tradition Leaderboard