It's not unusual to find Brooks Newsom's name atop the leaderboard in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships or in the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

It's not unusual to find Brooks Newsom's name atop the leaderboard in the Rogue Valley Stroke Play Championships or in the Southern Oregon Golf Tournament.

It's just never happened the same year.

Claiming the city title, which is what the stroke-play event is often called, might be "bad luck," he laughs.

"I'd love to win both, but I don't think I've ever even come close to doing that," says Newsom, a Portland resident with strong ties to Medford who captured his fourth stroke-play title a year ago. "I'd love to do it, but any time I've won the city, it seems like I've made an early exit in the Southern Oregon."

In 2007, he battled a wayward tee ball for two days at Centennial Golf Club but still managed to take the stroke-play crown with a 2-under-par 142.

A week later, he lost in the quarterfinals of the Southern Oregon, the popular match-play event at Rogue Valley Country Club.

Nevertheless, Newsom has seven titles between the two tournaments and can't ever be counted out.

The stroke-play tourney returns to Centennial Saturday and Sunday, minus only one of the gross champions from a year ago. In addition to Newsom, Bob Harrell will defend his super senior title and Stephanie Johns her women's crown. Mark Ranallo captured the senior division but won't be back this year due to a conflict.

The tournament had 144 entrants as of Thursday, down slightly from the maximum 160 reached last year.

But the marquee division, the men's championship, has 29 players who have handicap indexes of 4.0 or better.

"Overall, it's the biggest championship field we've had," says Chris Daggitt, tournament director at Centennial. "That's pretty good."

And one of them is Mike Barry, who had a long travel day Thursday in returning from the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, N.C. He played two rounds of stroke play Monday and Tuesday before being eliminated from the world's most prestigious amateur event.

"With Mike playing, hopefully he doesn't blow the field away," says Daggitt. "We'll see. There are some guys who could give him a run for his money."

Rick Dimick, who tied for second last year, returns, as do the likes of Glen Clark, Jay Klemp, Ken Stringer and Derek Zwagerman, all of whom were in the top 10 last year.

Newsom hasn't played as much as normal. He competed in the pro-am Thursday at the LPGA Safeway Classic in Portland and got in a round a day earlier, giving him five in the past month.

He often plays three or four major events in Oregon but managed only to compete in the U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier at Eagle Point Golf Club, which is what Barry won to advance to the Amateur. Six penalty strokes hindered Newsom as he shot 1 over for 36 holes.

"I'd been playing so little, I had too many really bad shots still in my bag," he says. "Overall, I was pretty darned pleased with it. I was surprised how low the scores were."

Barry's winning total was six shots below par and is a good indication of why he'll be the "clear-cut favorite" this weekend, says Newsom.

Newsom's own game is in OK shape, he says.

"The advantage of Centennial," says Newsom, noting its wide-open spaces, "is you can kind of spray it around a little bit as long as your game is OK. You can buy some time to get your rhythm going. Rogue Valley is not quite so forgiving off the tee. There's a little more of a premium in having your game in shape there."

The course is in fine shape, says Daggitt, adding that recent rain and cool temperatures have made the greens more receptive than usual.

Two changes have been implemented to avoid slow play: Players will be grouped in threesomes in the championship division, and the par-3 fourth hole that sometimes gets backed up will be shortened to about 150 yards.

Tee times begin at 7 a.m. each day. The championship division goes from 12:20 to 2 p.m. each day.

Pairings can be found at www.centennialgolfclub.com.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com