Welcome back golf fans. When last we left you, the 2016-17 wrap-around season had just concluded and it was a successful one if you were a Bulldog alum (or, like me, fans of them). The PGA Tour season now begins in the fall, takes a break over the holidays, and resumes in January. I’ll attempt to bring you up to speed on how our pro Bulldogs fared.
The season opened in Napa Valley with the Safeway Open. It was very much in the vicinity of the wildfires at that time, but the golf went on without a hitch. UC-Riverside alum Brendan Steele won the tourney, and the best Bulldog was Chris Kirk, who fell to T30 (tie for 30th) after a Sunday 74. Harris English and newly-minted PGA Tour member (and former Bulldog stud) Keith Mitchell both missed the cut.
If you’re thinking that a logical place to hold the next week’s tournament was Kuala Lumpur, congratulations! But indeed, the CIMB Classic is held on the other side of the world. The only Classic City representative was Hudson Swafford, who finished T54 in the limited field including a large international contingenct. Arizona State product Pat Perez took home the trophy.
The PGA Tour stayed in the Asian Theater for the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea. Apparently there are 8 actual bridges on the course, the ninth being “friendship” or something like that. Whatever the case, Justin Thomas, Alabama alum, PGA Championship winner, and PGA Player of the Year cashed the big check. Bulldogs Chris Kirk (T54), Russell Henley (T33), Hudson Swafford (T28), and Brian Harman (T5, 4 shots off the lead) all played and cashed smaller checks.
Staying in October, the Tour came back stateside and to Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship. Bulldog Chris Kirk is a former champion, so he played and finished T34. Joining him were Harris English, Brendon Todd, and Keith Mitchell, but all three missed the cut. Ohio State grad Ryan Armour captured the title.
After spending 2 weeks in Asia, then stopping in Mississippi, you would be forgiven if you thought players would be staying in the continental US. Nope. The World Golf Championship (HSBC Champions) was next on the docket and was held in Sheshan, China. Bulldog Bubba Watson won this 2 years ago, but did not play this year (I believe his wife Angie had knee surgery). But Hudson Swafford finished T50, Russell Henley tied for 36th, and Brian Harman finished solo 8th. Englishman Justin Rose won the tourney.
Back to Vegas for the Shriners Hospitcal for Children Open where all is for a good cause and Vegas in November ain’t half bad. UCLA Bruin Patrick Cantlay won in a playoff over Alex Cejka and Whee Kim. Bulldogs playing were Chris Kirk, Keith Mitchell, Harris English, and Bubba Watson. Only Bubba made the cut, and he finished T51.
The Tour took a detour south of the border to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Harris English missed the cut, but Keith Mitchell closed with a 65 Sunday to move up to T68. Tiglesman Patton Kizzire closed the deal for his first PGA Tour victory.
Back on fertile ground, the Tour came to St. Simons Island for the Davis Love hosted RSM Classic held at Sea Island. Eight Bulldogs competed, and the results are: Harris English (missed cut), Bubba Watson (67th), Keith Mitchell (T54), recent UGA grad Greyon Sigg on a sponsor’s exemption (T49), Hudson Swafford (T29), Chris Kirk, Brian Harman, and Kevin Kisner all tied for 4th. But they were 7 shots back of winner Austin Cook (Arkansas Razorback) who took control early and never relinquished it.
Then came a trip to the Bahamas, and a limited invitation only 18 man field (Hero World Challenge). That’s right - a tournament with only 18 players. Who could generate enough interest and sponsorship to have a broadcast golf tournament for 4 days the week after Thanksgiving? Tiger Woods. Because it’s his tournament (benefitting the Tiger Woods Foundation), and he gets to pick the players. And he picked himself. You might remember he had some issues, then he got hurt, then hurt again, then some issues. But he came back and fared pretty well, leading at one point during the 2nd round and made something of a charge on Sunday. He finished T9, but still. He got the golf world to pay attention. Bulldog Kevin Kisner tied for 12th.
The Fall season came to a close last weekend in Naples, FL, and the QBE Shootout. Hosted by Greg Norman (the Great White Shark), this tournament is now over 20 years old, and is an end of the season 2-man best ball event. The golf is competitive, but like the Hero World Challenge, there is plenty of goofing around. 12 teams competed (24 players) and 5 Bulldogs were entered. Brian Harman paired with Pat Perez (Arizona St.) and they finished 3rd. Bubba Watson paired with Brandt Snedeker (Vanderbilt) and finished 7th. Harris English paired with Matt Kuchar (Georgia Tech) to tie for 9th, along with Russell Henley who teamed with Kyle Stanley (Clemson). Kevin Kisner joined Kevin Chappell (UCLA) to finish in 11th place. You know who came in last? Jason Dufner (Auburn) and Billy Horschel (Florida). Man, you just can’t make this stuff up sometimes.
So after roughly 20% of the season, Georgia alums have yet to record a win but there have been a few top 10s, and there is a strong contingent on Tour. I’ll be back next week with a preview of the rest of the season, and possibly some projections. And as always...