In case you didn’t know, the PGA Tour season is similar to basketball (or, I guess, hockey if you’re into that sort of thing). The season begins in the fall and runs to the next fall with 3 playoff events to determine a champion. Other than a couple of weeks between the seasons, and a couple of weeks around December, there is always a professional golf tournament with rankings, points, and serious money on the line.
And since many of us are fairly consumed with something else** during the fall, the golf coverage at Dawg Sports won’t really kick into high gear until January. Whaddya know, here we are.
But why cover golf at a Barbecue and Bourbon blog that occasionally discusses football? Because we’re also Georgia, and Athens has produced an incredible amount of professional golf talent the last 15 years. And over the past 5 years, UGA golf alums have won more money on the PGA Tour than any other program, $6 million over 2nd place:
Georgia also leads all collegiate program alumni in the current 2019-20 season. So that’s why. And as football winds down and golf winds up, I’ve prepared a quick preview on who to watch and where they stand.
Beside each name I’ll give the current Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and the current standing on the 2019-20 FedEx Cup Points List, as well as the number of career PGA Tour wins. The OWGR helps determine entry into majors (in case you haven’t won recently) and the FedEx list determines who makes the playoffs and has a chance for the huge purses.
Brendon Todd (#59; #2; 2 wins). We have to start here. It’s such a great story, and his game has been incredibly consistent the last 3 months. After starting the season with 4 missed cuts, a T28 finish gave some hints that Todd had found his game. He then wins The Barracuda Championship, wins the Mayakoba Classic the next week, finished 3rd in the RSM Classic the next week, then tied for 3rd in the QBE Shootout team event. A disappointing T29 in Maui 2 weeks ago was followed up by a T21 in Honolulu this past weekend. He is almost assured of making it to the 2nd round of the playoffs this August with the points he’s accumulated.
Kevin Kisner (#30, #54, 3 wins). The self-described redneck from Aiken has become one of the better players from the US the last few seasons. Taking a couple of years to get his feet under him, Kisner has emerged as a tough competitor, making and being considered to represent the US in team events and match play formats. The Kiz is coming off a tie for 4th and T14 in Hawaii.
Keith Mitchell (#101, #94, 1 win). Not only does he get called “Kevin” a lot, but he also has one of the most unique caddies on Tour (google “Crunchy Pete” when you have time). Mitchell had a great early 2019, and he will be defending his lone title in a few weeks so I look forward to him having more success.
Bubba Watson (#50, #169, 12 wins). It’s well noted that he has many interests outside of golf, and one wonders where golf lands on the priority list of late. Because of his two majors, he will be in all the major fields for a couple of years and should make most of the limited field events as well. He draws a crowd as well as he slices a golf ball. Bubba has made 3 of 4 cuts so far, but only a T28 at the WGC-HSBC Champions is of note.
Russell Henley (#232, #177, 3 wins). After a tremendous start to his career (he won his first PGA Tour event as a member), Henley has followed with a consistent career. He’s very streaky, so watch out when he’s hot. He made his first 4 cuts this season, but has missed his last 3. See? Streaky.
Brian Harman (#123, #37, 2 wins). The other lefty from Georgia (Bubba being the well-known southpaw) had an up and down season last year. He had 4 top 10 finishes, but missed the cut in 13 of 29 total entries. He did make the playoffs, but had an early exit. Still, he’s won 2 titles (John Deere Classic, and Wells Fargo Championship) so don’t sleep on him.
Chris Kirk (#394, #196, 4 wins). Kirk is also a good story, as he stepped away from professional golf to tackle some personal challenges - on his own initiative. He’s back now, he seems healthy and happy, and has some decent finishes to prove it. Don’t let the current ranking fool you; he was top 50 in the world for a couple of years and snuck inside the top 20.
Harris English #185, #17, 2 wins). He’s got “conditional” status on the PGA Tour, due to a lackluster 2018-19 season and narrowly missing out on full status at the Korn Ferry Tour finals. His performance the last few years has been disappointing, as the Valdosta product had a very successful first couple of seasons on Tour. But he’s off on the right foot, as he played the early season (last fall’s) tournaments and made the cut in 6 of 7, pocketing almost $1.2 million. And note he’s currently #17 in FedEx Cup points - best to get them early before all the big boys come out to play.
Hudson Swafford (#434, #215, 1 win). He had some sort of foot injury during the season and essentially sat out the fall recuperating. Though outside the top 125 at the time, he can take a “minor medical” exemption (like a medical redshirt) and can keep his privileges by gaining a certain number of points in a short window. He made the cut in 2 of 3 tries so far, but the results are a T57 and T66 - he’ll need to pick up the pace a bit.
Sepp Straka #209, #99, 0 wins). As a rookie, finished ranked 37th in the Tour’s All-Around ranking. He made the final 125 so has full status on Tour. But he’ll need to improve some on his first go-round. Straka has a top 10 this season (good), but missed the cut in the other 7 tourneys (not good). He will be paired with English the first two rounds this weekend in the American Express.
There are a few other names that might pop in from time to time; players like Lee McCoy, Greyson Sigg, Joey Garber, and Erik Compton. All of whom are playing on the “mini Tours” such as the Korn Ferry, or the McKenzie. Due to relationships, requests, or other events, players will sometimes get invited to play a PGA Tour tournament even with no PGA status. All of the above have won a mini-tour event, and I believe all have a top 10 in a PGA Tour event, Compton having finished 2nd in the US Open in 2014.
That’s 30 wins by my count. With so many active players, UGA will be well represented in most every tournament played for the coming months, so great chances for even more victories. I could write an entire article about each one of these players, so feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any. And as always...
**As a Georgia football fan, you may call this misery, heartache, a reason for living, the best time of the year, or ulcer season.