If a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love in the spring, my old man fancy turns to golf after the conclusion of football season. Sure I’ll root on the Gym Dogs (an okay 195.950 to open up 2023) and the basketball teams, and the pitched ball teams, but I’m a junkie for spoiling good walks.
You’re probably aware that the PGA Tour is awash in former Georgia Bulldogs. There aren’t many TCU products, but one, Tom Hoge, is a fervent supporter of his Frogs and was giddy in recent weeks even as he teed it up for millions of dollars. That wasn’t lost on one particular former Bulldog golfer.
With that preface, “we” are still hungover from Monday. Yet ‘Dawgs on Tour waits for no one. So here’s the abbreviated primer for the first full field PGA Tour event of 2023. And it’s got them ‘Dawgs in it.
Tournament: Sony Open, January 12-15, 2023
Course: Waialae Country Club, par 70, 7,044 yards (Honolulu, HI).
Purse: $7.9 million in total, $1.422 million to the winner.
Defending Champ: Hideki Matsuyama. The 2021 Masters champ chased down 3rd round leader (former Bulldog and 2013 Sony winner) Russell Henley on Sunday to force a playoff. On the par 5 18th hole, Matsuyama smoked a 3 wood to kick in distance, relegating Henley to runner-up (Kevin Kisner finished 3rd).
Fun Fact: While Matsuyama was the first Masters winner from Japan (and Asia), Isao Aoki won the Sony Open in 1983 (also with an eagle) and was the first Japanese golfer to win on the PGA Tour. Just the circle of life.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 7:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel), Saturday-Sunday, 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. (NBC), 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. (Golf Channel). We’ve got golf in prime time, friends.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 8. Harris English, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Keith Mitchell, Greyson Sigg, Davis Thompson, Brendon Todd.
Missing are Bubba Watson and Hudson Swafford, who were suspended by the PGA Tour for joining the competing LIV Tour. And Sepp Straka, who played last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui - so I’m a little surprised he didn’t stay over another week while he’s in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It is a super short course by today’s standards, thus plays as a par 70 for the pros (only two par 5s). It can both give up low scores (Justin Thomas shot 59 a few years back) and make par a good score (especially if the wind blows or you can’t hit fairways). Iconic palm trees can create issues for approach shots from wayward tee shots.
The field is decent - plenty of familiar names. It is also filled out with amateurs and sponsor-exempted Japanese and other Asian golfers. So while it may not draw the biggest of TV audiences or the casual fan, like the recently competed CFP National Championship Game, it still ticks a lot of boxes who are looking for televised golf.
Kevin Kisner has done fairly well around here, because of his good iron play, the shorter course taking driver out of the longer-players hands, and his putter. The same for 2013 winner Russell Henley (his first PGA Tour win in his first PGA Tour start) for a lot of the same reasons. I’d love nothing more than to have to lug my laptop out Sunday night and crank out a victory story. Enjoy the golf, enjoy being 2-time defending college football national champions, and as always...