Spotlight | on golf

Familiar names headline Allianz Golf Championship

 
 
Bernhard Langer won the 2010 Allianz Championship in Boca Raton on the first playoff hole, blasting out of a bunker for eagle and besting John Cook.
Bernhard Langer won the 2010 Allianz Championship in Boca Raton on the first playoff hole, blasting out of a bunker for eagle and besting John Cook.
Chris Stewart / AP

Special to the Miami Herald

The Allianz Golf Championship is similar to Cheers, the Boston bar that was the setting for the TV show of the same name. The theme song of Cheers proudly proclaimed the bar was, “Where everybody knows your name.”

At the Allianz, which begins with the first of three rounds Friday, there also will be a lot of names you know.

The Champions Tour event in Boca Raton, to be played on The Old Course at Broken Sound, is for players 50 and over, and many of the players are the standouts you watched dominating the PGA Tour a few years back.

Try these names, among others, who are scheduled to compete at the Allianz: defending champion Rocco Mediate, Andy Bean, Mark Calcavecchia, Ben Crenshaw, Miami’s Bruce Fleisher, Tom Kite, Tom Lehman, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, Steve Pate, Corey Pavin, Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin, Colin Montgomerie, Fuzzy Zoeller, Hal Sutton, Nick Price, Curtis Strange, Craig Stadler, Mark O’Meara, Jeff Sluman and Scott Simpson.

In their careers, that’s a lot of golf shots and, even more important, a lot of golf history.

“We’ve got a great field,” tournament executive director Ryan Dillon said of the first full-field Champions event of the year.

The Allianz’s total purse is $1.6 million, which doesn’t match its brethren tournaments on the PGA Tour but is a reasonable payday for the over-50 crowd.

What makes the Allianz and most of the Champions Tour events unique is the attitude the players take as they play.

Unlike the PGA Tour, it’s not so deadly serious. Spectator crowds are less, so you can actually see the ball being hit. Players will often talk and joke around with the fans. Rather than the tight-faced expression of the PGA Tour (OK, Phil Mickelson is an exception), the players are talking, smiling and laughing.

As Price put it: “Most of us have been there and done that. Now, we’re on the Champions Tour, and it is about giving back what we have received.”

Unfinished business

The field continues to build — with the world’s best players — for the Honda Classic, which will be played Feb. 27-March 2 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.

The latest edition is not too shabby: Rory McIlroy.

“I can’t wait to get back to The Honda,” said McIlroy, ranked seventh in the world.

Honda has been the best of times and worst of times for McIlroy.

In 2012, he won The Honda, and that vaulted him to No. 1 in the world, a landmark occasion in his career.

Then, a year ago, McIlroy struggled mightily during the first two rounds of The Honda and then — to everyone’s surprise — during the second round while hopelessly behind he withdrew himself from the tournament, blaming a toothache. That was probably the lowlight of his career.

Many speculated that McIlroy was just taking the easy way out.

“I’m starting this year on a different type of platform,” McIlroy said. “Everything feels like it has fallen into place, and I can just focus on my golf.”

On dropping out a year ago, he has many times declared a mea culpa for his unceremonious exit.

“Last year, admittedly, I had a tough week, a forgettable week. I let frustrations get the better of me and perhaps should have adopted a more mature approach. You could say that I have unfinished business to attend to this year.”

That’s a fact, Jack

Samuel L. Jackson is well-known as a first-class actor. He also would like to be known as a first-class golfer, which he is.

Jackson takes the game so seriously that he has it written into his movie contracts that he gets two days off a week to play golf. Also, he often takes a short-term membership at a course near the site of his movie filming.

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