Darren Clarke will commence the New Year on a positive note in teeing-up next week as defending champion in the PGA Champion Tour’s $2m ‘winners only’ Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii.
The 53-year-old Clarke won the event on debut a year ago and qualified for a return visit to the Hualalai course in capturing last September’s Sanford International in South Dakota. The win was Clarke’s third on the Champions Tour and the 25th success in his professional career.
This year’s 38th anniversary of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship will feature seven first-timers at the event, including the Champions debut of former World No. 1 David Duval.
“One of the things that makes this tournament special is rewarding players who have won on PGA Tour Champions,” said Tournament Manager Kelly Fliear.
“This year, seven players will get to experience Hualalai for the first time, and we look forward to giving them an Aloha welcome to this wonderful event.”
Duval, who turned 50 on November 9th, won 13 times on the PGA Tour including the 2001 Open Championship where he endeared himself to Royal Lytham and St. Anne fans in removing his wraparound sun-glasses and spoke eloquently about what it meant to win golf’s oldest major and how much he was looking forward in returning to Florida and fill the Claret Jug with vintage cognac for his father, Bob to enjoy.
Of course, another of Duval’s victories was his nine-shot success in the 1999 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
The Mitsubishi Electric Championship also features winners of PGA Tour Champions events over the past two years. Alex Cejka and Stephen Dodd, who won three of the five senior majors contested in 2021, will each make their Hualalai debut this year.
Cejka captured the Regions Tradition and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship last year before Dodd won The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex at Sunningdale.
The other players making their tournament debuts at Hualalai are Steven Alker, Cameron Beckman, Rod Pampling and Dicky Pride. Alker, Pampling and Pride were each rookie winners on PGA Tour Champions during the 2020-21 season.
Since 1997, six players have won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in their tournament debut: Clarke (2021), Jerry Kelly (2018), Duffy Waldorf (2016), Miguel Ángel Jiménez (2015), Loren Roberts (2006) and American John Jacobs (1999).