DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Scott McCarron broke through on the PGA Tour Champions circuit last season, rallying to win his first event in Iowa.
McCarron has been on a tear ever since.
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, he has notched two more wins and 10 top-10 finishes since taking first in last season's Principal Charity Classic.
McCarron, 51, also finished in the top five in this season's first two majors, and he enters this weekend's tournament at the Wakonda Club behind only Bernhard Langer on the money list - though Langer has been so dominant in 2017 that he's already earned more than twice as much as anyone else on the tour.
''He's tough to beat. I have to play really, really well, not many mistakes to have a chance to beat him,'' McCarron said.
Here are some of the top stories to follow as the Champions Tour makes its 17th annual trip to Iowa:
Langer, 59, has already won nearly $1.7 million this season, with back-to-back major titles in hand as he heads to Des Moines. But Langer has never played particularly well at Wakonda, finishing 31st and 48th.
''That's been on my mind. I've been pondering why it is that I haven't had a win here,'' Langer said Wednesday. ''I'm going to be contemplating ... where I might have made mistakes in the past or what part of the course gets me.''
Should Langer win in Iowa, he'd be the first Champions golfer with wins in three straight starts since Fred Couples in 2010.
McCarron can contribute much of his success in 2017 to being strong off the tee and nimble on the green. McCarron is fifth on the senior circuit in driving distance and ninth in putting average, and he has more eagles than anyone else. Staying in the fairway is crucial at Wakonda because of its narrow layout, but it didn't hurt McCarron a year ago. Birdies on his final three holes led to a one-stroke victory.
HOT, HOT, HOT
Perhaps the biggest challenge the golfers will face this weekend will be the weather. The first heat wave of the summer is expected to hit Iowa in time for Friday's opening round, with highs in the mid-to-upper 90s and wind gusts of over 20 mph.
''The guy that hits a lot of fairways but has a really good short game this week is going to have a really good chance. Last year, (I) only made one bogey. That's not going to happen this year,'' McCarron said.
Des Moines often offers one of the more exciting finishes of the senior circuit season, in part because of its layout. The first hole, a 431-yard, par-4, graded out as the second-hardest opening hole of the series in 2016. But No. 18, a par 4 of just 311 yards, was the shortest finishing hole a year ago.
Joe Durant has finished seventh or better in three trips to Des Moines. He tied for second in 2015 and tied for fourth a year ago after sharing the lead through two rounds. ... Billy Andrade was third at the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago and second in Iowa last season. ... Couples will skip this weekend's tournament because of back issues.
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