The Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge is proving to be popular with players and fans.
The PGA Tour Champions event offers fans a chance to see players like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who rarely compete these days. And it gives players a chance to compete in a situation that is less stressful than normal tournaments.
“The players really enjoy playing here,” Kansas City’s Tom Watson said. “Instead of playing for ourselves, we get to play as a team with our friends. I wish there were more tournaments like it.”
The tournament is unusual in that it uses one course with only par-3 holes — Top of the Rock, a nine-hole layout that teams tour twice to complete 18 holes — as well as the par-71 Buffalo Ridge course.
Woody Austin of Derby, Kan., and Michael Allen shot 12-under 59 in a better-ball format Saturday at Buffalo Ridge to take the lead in the Champions Division at 17-under 108 after 36 holes.
Watson said he struck the ball well but didn’t make any putts while shooting 4-under 50 at Top of the Rock, leaving him and partner Andy North tied for 13th place at 10-under 115.
Larry Nelson and Bruce Fleisher had a 2-stroke lead in the Legends Division, which is using only Top of the Rock. They shot a 6-under 48 Saturday for a 15-under 93 total for 36 holes.
Nicklaus and Player thrilled their fans by shooting 3-under 51 at Top of the Rock and are at 4-under 104 in the Legends Division.
Nicklaus said he enjoys some other activities associated with the tournament as much as the golf.
“I think I enjoy the fishing and the shooting and the fanfare that goes with it and so forth,” Nicklaus said. “I mean, I don’t play any golf anymore. I didn’t come back for that.
“I enjoy playing with my partner. Gary enjoys coming back. For 104 years old he still plays fantastically, and he even plays all right for 80. We enjoy each other’s company. We’ve had fun together through the years.”
The tournament concludes Sunday at Top of the Rock, with the Legends Division teams playing nine holes and the rest of the field 18.