What is the PGA Tour Champions?

By Savannah Richardson

Bernhard Langer, the champions tour money leader

The PGA Tour Champions, commonly known as the Champions Tour, is the PGA Tour's professional senior tour, where the best golfers aged 50 and above compete.

Champions Tour Qualifying

In general, qualifying for PGA Tour Champions events is restricted to those players who finished in the top 50 of last year's competition and those age eligible players who are in the top 70 of the all-time money list from PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions events.

In addition, exemptions are given to members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and winners of previous PGA Tour Champions events. As with PGA Tour events, sponsors are also allowed to bring a small number of golfer's into a given event.

A select number of spots in Champions Tour events are also up for grabs each week through Monday qualifying, similar to other professional tours.

History of the Champions Tour

While senior golf tournaments, like the Senior PGA Championship, have been around since 1937, a formal PGA Tour for seniors was not established until 1980. Don January and Arnold Palmer were the tour’s first two winners.

The idea for a senior tour grew out of the highly successful 1978 Legends of Golf tournament at Onion Creek Club in Austin, Texas. The event featured competition from some of the greatest senior golfers at the time who competed in teams of two.

From 1980 until 2002, the tour was known as the Senior PGA Tour before transitioning to the Champions Tour until the latest name change to PGA Tour Champions in 2016.

A typical seasons on the Champions Tour consists of 26 events, mostly in the United States.

PGA Tour & Champions Tour Differences

While sharing many similarities with the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour Champions has several differences. One difference is the allowance of golf carts at some events. Most of the events take place over three rounds instead of four, and because there are fewer golfers on the PGA Tour Champions there are seldom any cuts. However, three of the five senior majors play a standard four-round, 72 hole tournament with a 36-hole cut.

Senior Majors

Just like the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour Champions has its own series of major championships. The senior majors include The Tradition, the Senior PGA Championship, the Senior Players Championship, the U.S. Senior Open, and The Senior Open Championship.

Charles Schwab Cup

Each year, the tour ends in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the final tournament in a three-tournament play-off series mirrored after the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup.

The Charles Schwab Cup began in 1990 and took its current format in 2016, when the tour moved to a playoff format, and the top 72 players on the money list automatically qualify for the first playoff event.

There is also a Wildcard Weekend the week prior to the playoffs at the SAS Championship which allows for one player who finishes in the top 10 that week, but is outside the money list’s top 72, to advance to the playoffs.

The first playoff event is the PowerShares QQQ Championship event at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA. For the second playoff event, the Dominion Charity Championship, at Richmond’s Country Club of Virginia James River Course, the field cuts down to 54.

The field cuts down for a final time to 36 for the Charles Schwab Championship at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Champions Tour All-Time Money List

Since the PGA Tour Champions inception in 1980, the circuit continues to grow. Lee Trevino became the first senior tour winner to win $1 million in 1990.

Hale Irwin is the winningest golfer in Champions history with 45 victories, but isn’t at the top of the all-time money winner list. There have been six golfers to surpass the $15 million mark, three have surpassed the $20 million and one player, Bernhard Langer, has made more than $30 million dollars.

As of July 2021, here are the top 10 PGA Tour of Champions All-time Money winners.

Rank Player Wins Money
1 Bernhard Langer 41 $30,773,429
2 Hale Irwin 45 $27,158,515
3 Gil Morgan 25 $20,631,930
4 Jay Haas 18 $19,359,051
5 Tom Kite 10 $16,303,747
6 Tom Watson 14 $15,062,727
7 Dana Quigley 11 $14,898,463
8 Bruce Fleisher 18 $14,878,986
9 Larry Nelson 19 $14,637,172
10 Jim Thorpe 13 $13,936,083

Image: Quinn Harris/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

About the Author

Savannah Richardson is a staff writer for GolfLink. She’s a daily golfer and has worked for two years covering amateur and professional golf events with Amateurgolf.com and The Brunswick News. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.