Georgia Football won’t grace our TV screens in live form until at least April, so here at Dawg Sports we continue to highlight the success of other Bulldogs in their varied endeavors. Vineyarddawg has a tremendous breakdown of the Georgia Gymnastics program, and now we’ll continue onto the world of golf.
I have a fondness for golf. Many of you do not. But there is no denying that Georgia has a very successful golf program, both on the women’s and men’s side. And for the last 10 years or so, Georgia has turned out male golfers who have succeeded on the professional PGA Tour at unprecedented levels. I’ll give an update on the undergraduate programs in a few weeks, as they don’t start the spring campaign for a while yet, but first let’s turn our attention to those who have turned professional.
The PGA Tour resumes this weekend after a holiday break, and it’s traditional “silly season” of made-for-TV golf events. The SBS Tournament of Champions takes place in Hawaii starting Thursday. It is a field of only 30 players, with no cut, so everyone makes money. And entry is gained only having won a PGA Tour event over the last 12 months. For the first time in several years, only one former Bulldog meets this qualification, and his name is Bubba Watson. So with limited UGA presence, I will give a brief rundown of each of the current PGA professionals who are alumni of the UGA men’s golf program, and how they’ve fared in the 2016-2017 season (which started in October 2016 and runs through October 2017).
Chris Kirk: 74th in Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Played in 5 events so far, only missing the cut in 1. Three Top 10 finishes for a total of $707,957. Good for 14th in this year’s FedEx Cup standings. He placed 2nd at the Sanderson Farms Classic in late October. He has previously won 4 tourneys on the PGA Tour and is probably the 2nd most successful product of UGA.
Bubba Watson: 10th in OWGR. Has won 9 times on the Tour in his career and is the most successful pro from the University of Georgia. Only played 1 event so far this season, in which he was the defending champion at the WGC HSBC Champions event. He finished 54th and cashed $49,250. He also finished 6th in the unofficial Hero World Challenge (out of 17). He has actually started using new irons, as his old Ping set had been in use for almost 10 years. Realize that most Tour pros swap irons every 2-3 years, and this is amazing Bubba was so successful with older technology. Then again, he bends the ball more than others and newer technology fights this side spin, so it makes some sense. He is also one of the few pros to switch to a new ball manufacturer, Volvik. Watch this space.
Harris English: 76th in OWGR. Played 4 events this fall, making the cut in 2 and that includes a tie for 4th at the Shriners this past November. However, he played in a “silly season” event, the Franklin Templeton Shootout, a 3 day kinda all-star team event. Of all people to team with, he paired with Matt Kuchar, Georgia Tech All-American and alum. For the 2nd time, they showed that boys from Georgia are better than everyone else, and won the dang thing. Dawgs and Bees living together, human sacrifice, mass hysteria. Has won twice on the PGA Tour in his career.
Hudson Swafford: 221st OWGR. Made all four cuts so far this season, but only for $104,948. This places him 91st in FedEx Cup standings, and he had his best year ever last season, so maybe this portends for continued success.
Brian Harman: 140th OWGR. The “other” lefty from UGA on Tour (Bubba famously being known as left-handed), Harman had a steady but not great 2016 campaign. Played 5 events this season and only missed the cut in 2, cashing $145,643 so far. He was inside the top 100 in the world for the last two years, so his not-so-great results resulted in him slipping down the rankings.
Kevin Kisner: 50th OWGR. Kisner had a breakout 2015 calendar year, and 2016 wasn’t bad either. He’s played in 3 events worth $97,525 to his checkbook. Former Tour winner, and nerves of steel.
Russell Henley: 127th OWGR. One of the only golfers to win in his professional debut (2013 Sony Open), and two wins to his career. Has played 4 events, made 3 cuts, and a top 10 in November gives him $281,580 in earnings thus far. And he’s from Macon, disproving the theory that people from Macon never amount to anything** (actually, Macon’s own Peter Persons won a PGA event in the 1990, and he matriculated at UGA as well).
Brendon Todd: 490th OWGR. Yep, the rankings go that deep. Which makes sense when you consider how many international golfers and Tours exist. The surprising thing is that Todd is a former Tour winner, and was inside the top 100 in the world for a couple of years. Last season was a disaster for him, as he only made 1 cut and tumbled down the rankings faster than Lane Kiffin’s exit interview.
Erik Compton: 684th OWGR. Not a Tour winner, but he did place 2nd in the US Open as recently as 2014 at Pinehurst. A two-time heart transplant recipient, he is truly a good guy with a wonderful story. But his golf game just hasn’t been the same over the last 20 months, and he, like Todd, only has conditional status on the PGA Tour. Both will likely compete more on the Web.com Tour, which is like Triple A baseball.
So there’s the primer on Bulldogs chasing little white balls. Golf Channel will have the live golf, but since it’s played in Hawaii, the golf will be prime time (6:00-10:00 pm ET). If you’re tired of the cold and wet, tune in to see tropical breezes, a magnificent golf resort, and humpback whales breaching in the background. Stay tuned for more updates as the Tour season gets going in earnest. And as always….
**I’m from Macon too, but I don’t disprove the theory.