Tournament: Palmetto Championship at Congaree, June 10-13, 2021
Course: Congaree Golf Club, par 71, 7,655 yards. About an hour north of Savannah and halfway between Savannah and Charleston. Truly in the middle of nowhere.
Purse: $7.3 million total, $1.34 million to the winner
Defending Champ: Aye, there’s the rub. This tournament is a one-time substitute for the RBC Canadian Open. Which due to COVID-19 concerns was canceled in 2021. Of course it was also canceled in 2020 during the earlier days of the pandemic. But this isn’t the RBC Canadian Open - so is there a defending champion?
Fun Fact: A new club, Congaree was founded with a philanthropic mission. Founded by billionaires (including Bob McNair of Houston Texans fame), the land was purchased and the course developed around also providing opportunities to underserved low-country youth. There is intense golf training, but also SAT prep and college admissions help for the program’s enrollees. It’s an exclusive club whose members are invested enough to work with those attending the program. The Congaree Global Golf Initiative is truly a unique offering, with an even more unique infrastructure and backdrop.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS). So the usual GC/CBS setup, except with no half-hour break on the weekend handoff between the networks.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 6. Harris English, Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford, and the professional debut of recent UGA graduate and 2021 All-American Davis Thompson.
There are a lot of firsts happening this week. It’s the first time the Palmetto Championship will be held (and no news on if it will return anytime in the future), the first time the Canadian Open hasn’t been held in consecutive years since the World Wars, the first time the state of South Carolina has hosted 3 PGA Tour tournaments (RBC Heritage in April, the PGA Championship at Kiawah in May), the first time the exclusive Congaree Golf Club is showcased on television, and the first time Davis Thompson will tee it up in a professional tournament as a professional.
The course will take center stage. It’s a Tom Fazio design and though just a few years old, is already one of the top 100 courses in the United States. Its also a beast - the par four 8th hole can play 540 yards. There are natural areas (low-country sand) everywhere and they will play as natural areas (club grounding allowed). Water abounds, the turf is firm and fast, and the greens will be lightning quick. From what I can gather, it is similar to Pinehurst #2 (since the Gil Hanse redesign) and is similar to Pine Valley. A shot makers course and make no mistake.
The field has stars, but being the week before the US Open will always cause some pros to skip in order to prep for our national championship. The fact that the US Open is in San Diego also figures into the equation - many players won’t want to face four days on a long course with a Sunday afternoon finish when facing a cross-country flight and the jet lag that will follow.
But world #1 Dustin Johnson will be there, as he’s a SC native. Other Palmetto State natives will also compete. Like Kisner, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Scott Brown, Jonathan Byrd, etc. Brooks Koepka is scheduled to tee it up and is likely bringing a truck of Michelob Ultra to assuage all the frat boys from Columbia. Jon Rahm will be at at undisclosed location weighing the value of a vaccination and societal good versus whatever reasons he had not to. It has only cost him $1.6 million so far.
On a US Open preview side, Greyson Sigg (currently third in Korn Ferry Tour points) and recent UGA grad Spencer Ralston tied for third at the Atlanta US Open qualifying tournament Monday. That was good enough to advance and both will be playing in the US Open next week at Torrey Pines. Which brings the total to 8 Georgia Bulldogs going to San Diego. We’ll be back next week with a US Open preview, but for now let’s check out Congaree and root on Davis Thompson in his quest to get his full-time PGA Tour card. And as always...