< Ken Tanigawa climbs leaderboard at Charles Schwab Cup

Ken Tanigawa climbs leaderboard at Charles Schwab Cup


Just two years ago, Ken Tanigawa was collecting an award as the Arizona Golf Association’s Player of the Year after winning the state amateur championship for the second time.

On Saturday, he will play in the third round of the Charles Schwab Cup as one of 34 PGA Tour Champions players competing in the season championship at Phoenix Country Club.

“Winning that award was pretty cool, too, and meant a lot to me,” Tanigawa said Friday of the AGA honor. “This is certainly a long way from that, but I remember it very well and really enjoyed playing in those events with some really good golfers.

“That’s part of the reason why I’m here now because of the preparation I received from playing in good amateur competition.”

CHARLES SCHWAB CUP: Scores

The same year he earned that award, Tanigawa turned 50 and decided to give Champions Tour Qualifying School a try. As luck would have it, the final stage was played at TPC Scottsdale near his home.

Tanigawa, who was born in Kobe, Japan, and played college golf at UCLA, earned his tour card for the 2018 season and quickly made a name for himself, winning the Pure Insurance Championship as a tour rookie.

He finished 30th on the points list to qualify for the Schwab Cup playoffs and added to his resume this year by capturing his first major title in the Kitchen Aid Senior PGA Championship. That came in his 32nd tour start when he knocked in a 10-foot par putt on the final hole to complete a three-shot comeback at venerable Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

“It really wasn’t my plan that, hey, I’m going to turn 50 and play the Champions Tour,” said Tanigawa, who came into this week’s event ranked 13th. “That wasn’t what I had in mind. It was more a matter of how I was playing when the time came, and honestly I didn’t really know that I would be able to play in Q-School as an amateur.

“Then they had the finals here at TPC, so it kind of checked all the boxes for me to give it a try, and I was fortunate to get through.”

Tanigawa also sharpened his skills through his matches at Whisper Rock Golf Club against the likes of PGA Tour pros Paul Casey, Kevin Chappell, Martin Kaymer, Geoff Ogilvy and Kevin Streelman.

“Playing against great amateurs in the AGA and then pros like they have up at Whisper Rock both helped a great deal,” he said. “They were better golfers than me and anytime you play with guys like that it helps to improve your game. You learn a lot from those experiences and then you add in the other factors, and it’s the recipe that got me here.”

Tanigawa figured that if he could hold his own with the likes of those Whisper Rock members, then he could probably do the same against Champions Tour pros.

He has notched four top-10 finishes this season after posting three as a rookie, and has made the cut in every tour event he has played.

Something that helped him get his feet wet is that he was a college teammate of established tour members Scott McCarron, who came into the event as the Schwab Cup points leader, and Brandt Jobe.

“I also know a lot of the other guys in that age demographic from many years ago,” Tanigawa said. “They were all very welcoming and kind to me when I first came out and it made the situation a lot more comfortable for me because I was the really the new guy feeling my way along. They made it a lot easier, for sure.”

Tanigawa’s round of 67 lifted him to a tie for 15th place at 5-under 137, nine shots behind leader Jeff Maggert.

“That was probably the worst I could have shot,” Tanigawa said. “I played better than that, but you can’t grumble about shooting 4 under right? So hopefully I can carry that into the weekend, keep it going and build on it.”

That wouldn’t surprise McCarron one bit.

“I expect him to win more,” McCarron told PGATour.com after Tanigawa’s major victory. “Once you get in the mix and play well and have a chance, it gives you more confidence. He knows he can get the job done. He knows he can win majors in very tough conditions and handle the pressure.”

Chip shots

Jeff Maggert continued to set the pace after 36 holes with a round of 65 that put him at 14-under 128. Bernhard Langer remained second but slipped four shots behind with a double bogey on the final hole, where he hit his approach shot past the green and into a water hazard. Jobe and Retief Goosen are five shots behind entering the weekend.

McCarron’s round of 71 left him at 2-under 140 and tied for 25th place. He remains the leader in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup title, which comes with a $1 million bonus annuity. Jerry Kelly came into the event second in the standings but his 74 Friday dropped him to a tie for 25th. Maggert cannot win the season championship even if he captures the tournament title.

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