2012 ACE GROUP CLASSIC
25 Years of Champions Tour in Naples
- Langer returns to form with four-shot victory in 2011
- Couples holds off hard-charging Armour in 2010
- Roberts is Boss of the Bay in 2009
- Hoch wins playoff for second straight victory in 2008
- Wadkins birdies on No. 18 and wins The ACE in 2007
- Loren keeps on soarin' in 2006
- Mark James holds off Irwin, Wargo in 2005
- Stadler wins 3-way playoff in 2004
- Vicente Fernandez takes 2003 title
- Hale Irwin rallies past Tom Watson in 2002
- Gil Morgan takes 2001 title for second win
- Lanny Wadkins wins four-way playoff in 2000
- Allen Doyle goes wire-to-wire in 1999
- Gil Morgan's chip wins it in 1998
- Hale Irwin edges Bob Murphy in 1997
- "Mr. 59" wins by 1 in '96
- Bob Murphy takes rain-shortened 1995 event
- Mike Hill goes back-to-back in 1994
- Mike Hill staves off Stockton in 1993
- Jimmy Powell's hot finish wins it in 1992
- Lee Trevino does it again in 1991
- Lee Trevino outduels Bruce Crampton in 1990
- Gene Littler rallies past Henning in 1989
- Gary Player wins inaugural event in 1988
ACE GROUP CLASSIC
When: Monday through Sunday
Schedule: Monday, Practice rounds, all day; Tuesday, Practice rounds, all day; First Tee Charity Challenge, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, Pro-Am, shotgun starts, 7:45 a.m., 1 p.m.; Thursday, Pro-am, shotgun starts, 7:45 a.m., 1 p.m.; Friday, First round, 10 a.m. (6:30-8:30 p.m., Golf Channel); Saturday, Second round, 10 a.m. (6:30-8:30 p.m., Golf Channel); Sunday, Final round, 10 a.m. (7-9:30 p.m., Golf Channel)
Tickets: Discount through Thursday, $10 off each 17th hole Zig Zag Lounge ticket (normally $75). Golf books on sale, $99, includes golf vouchers at 31 courses and weekly ticket. Hospitality access to the Zig Zag Lounge, 18th hole skybox with an open bar and lunch buffet on the 18th hole, $100 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Weekly tickets, $50; Daily tickets, $25.
Info: Call 593-3900 or go to theacegroupclassic.com (tickets also on sale at PGA Tour Superstore)
Gary Koch will return to the scene of the crime this week.
Not a crime that anyone else committed, necessarily. But Koch was in control of the ACE Group Classic at
TwinEagles in 2004.
Koch, then 51, had the lead with five holes to play, but three-putted No. 14 for a bogey, and ended up with a
bogey on the par-5 17th after his ball landed in a sand-filled divot in the fairway. He ended up in a playoff that Craig Stadler won on the first playoff hole, also No. 18, with a 27-footer. Koch had a 31-footer that just missed.
"Obviously, '04, some great memories and some very disappointing ones, too," Koch said.
Koch shot a first-round 62 to take a four-shot lead, firing an 8-under-par 28 on the back nine highlighted by holing out a 50-foot bunker shot for an eagle on No. 17. He also had an eagle on No. 13.
"That was a special day," said Koch, now 59. "And then disappointment on the last nine to really be in control of things and not be able to get it done. Kind of a strange, mixed bag, all in one year."
Koch is in the tournament on a sponsor exemption, and he's had a good record, mostly in that role, in the event.
Koch tied for 12th last year, tied for eighth in 2008, and tied for sixth in 2006 — the last year at TwinEagles.
"He was one of ACE's strong suggestions that we had discussed who we wanted to have a sponsor exemption," Octagon senior VP Jeff Kleiber said. "He is so great with the amateurs. He's played great here."
When Koch and Kleiber talked a couple of months ago, Koch said "I'd like to really have another shot at TwinEagles."
Koch didn't hesitate when asked about what players think of TwinEagles, which hosted the tournament from 2002-06.
"Certainly all of the players that I talked to are super-excited about going back," he said. " ... I think the guys liked the golf course. It was always in great condition.
"The two closing holes are phenomenal. The 17th, the par 5, you talk about great risk-reward par-5. ... You can see a 3 there or you can see a 7. Then it's a classic par-4 finishing hole. You've got to play two good shots. ... When you get to the green, it's no bargain either."
This week will be Koch's last shot for a while. The NBC Sports golf analyst starts work Monday, and will be out for the next six weeks.
"I literally go back to Tampa Sunday night from here, and I leave Monday morning for Tucson," Koch said. "We start with Match Play, Honda, Cadillac Championship at Doral ... we go all of the way up to the Masters."
"Being an off week starting the TV season for NBC, he saw this as a great opportunity for him to be able to play," Kleiber said. "He still enjoys playing, but this is really his second career."
Koch got to do some research Sunday, watching Phil Mickelson's final-round 64 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. To top it off, Mickelson routed playing partner Tiger Woods, who struggled to a 75.
"I did watch a pretty good bit of it," said Koch, who has been an analyst since 1990. "I'm not sure anybody would've predicted either one for how they played. I don't think anybody would've predicted Phil to shoot 64, and I don't think anybody would've predicted Tiger to shoot a 75. It was great to watch, and certainly great interest.
"The bottom line, it just goes to show you how important putting is. Phil makes a couple of monster putts for pars on the last nine, and Tiger's having trouble getting in from three feet."
Koch will be among 13 athletes to be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. The former Gators golfer played at King High. The three-time All-American for Florida played on the Gators' 1973 national championship team that included Andy Bean and Andy North. He will be enshrined March 19-20 in Tampa.