Tag: PGA Tour

The PGA Championship-Phil Mickelson

PGA Championship, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort SC

Congrats, Phil!

Watching Phil Mickelson stroll up the 18th hole at Kiawah Island with a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen was almost surreal. I think many of us “Phil fanatics” kept pinching ourselves during those final moments thinking it was a dream. The idea of Phil, at fifty plus, holding off the imposing figure of Brooks Koepka to win the PGA Championship, seemed like an impossibility. Like Ali when he fought George Forman—there would be flashes of brilliance and plenty of determination, but sooner or later the big one would land. I kept thinking about the 2014 PGA Championship, 2015 Masters, and 2016 Open Championships where Phil fought his heart out, put up strong performances with great thrills, but ultimately came up just short. Not this time though, as Phil found an even deeper level of resolve to deliver a historic win for the ages, just as Mohamed Ali did back in 1974. It was a remarkable day, and most certainly the high point of Phil’s fantastic career. And do we dare get our hopes up for that elusive U.S. Open title? You bet we do!

Phil’s Fanatics 

Early in his career, Phil Mickelson garnered the nickname “Phil the Thrill” because he had a seemingly endless number of shots in his arsenal, and was willing pull them out of his bag at any time, regardless of risk, almost always with unlikely and eye-popping success. Since he broke out on tour in 1991, and won the Northern Telecom Open as an Amateur, everyone knew that this young lefty was going to provide us with a ton of excitement. Phil immediately captured the hearts of golf fans with his fan friendly, warm persona, along with his aggressive style of play. That style of play cost Phil quite a few tournaments, including a number of major championships, but that just endeared him to the golfing public even more. Eventually Phil’s following of loyalists became known as the “Phil fanatics.” No matter how poorly Phil might be playing, these fans never left his side. Well, the Phil fanatics were out in full force for Lefty last week at the PGA Championship. They cheered and hollered for him all week, and assembled around the 18th green to share the moment with their hero. Not since Arnie’s Army has a player generated that kind of love and excitement from golf fans—and richly deserved.

The Thrills Keep Coming

Phil’s last major victory came all the way back at the 2013 Open Championship, and there have been a number of highs and lows since then. A dry spell in 2014 and 2015 saw Mickelson drop his longtime swing coach, Butch Harman, and hire Andrew Getson. Getson revitalized Phil’s game, and their partnership resulted in 6 top 5 finishes in the 2016 season, including 3 runner-up’s—but unfortunately no victories. 2017 proved to be another winless season for Phil, now 47 years old with many believing that his days of winning on tour were behind him. But lo and behold, Phil reached into his bag of magic and surprised us all by winning the WGC Mexico Championship in 2018. It was an unbelievable victory, as he took down Justin Thomas in a thrilling playoff and proved that Lefty was not done quite yet. And then in 2019, Phil won again, capturing his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, only to struggle for the remainder of the year, failing to record a single top ten. The 2020 season proved to be another disappointment for Lefty, with only two top 5 finishes in the shortened season. And going into the PGA Championship this year, Phil hadn’t placed among the top 20 in a single event, most recently a disastrous finish at the Wells Fargo where he opened with a 64, only to follow that up with a 75 and a pair of 76’s. While most of the golf world viewed it as yet another sign that Phil was done, his fanatics (and most importantly Phil himself), saw only the brilliant 64, and continued to believe. Well, he’s done it again—shocking the world when everybody counted him out. Congratulations Phil, this was truly an epic performance. You can bet that Phil’s faithful flock will have swelled to record numbers for the Open at Torrey Pines next month, and win or lose, you know he will be giving it everything he’s got. A seventh major? Don’t count him out.  

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The Masters

Augusta National Golf Club, GA

Valero Texas Open Wrap-Up

Last week’s Valero Texas Open made for some very exciting golf to say the least. Jordan Spieth and Charley Hoffman dueled it out in the final round, both shooting 66 on Sunday. However, Spieth had already started two shots ahead of Hoffman, so it wasn’t enough for him to catch Jordan. With Spieth’s latest victory, he ended a winless drought that’s lasted nearly four years. With this victory, Spieth has vaulted up to 7th place in the FedEx Cup standings. You knew it was only a matter of time before Jordan sealed the deal with his relentless pounding on the door since the 2021 season began. There can’t be a greater confidence boost than to arrive at Augusta fresh off a hard-fought victory, so it’s a virtual lock that he will be in the mix come Sunday at the Masters.

The Masters Tournament

With the schedule change to the fall last year, it feels like only yesterday when we watched Dustin Johnson lift the 2020 trophy at Augusta National, and it feels like Christmas came early this year with the Masters back where it belongs—the best golf week of the year. With the weather warming up, flowers coming into bloom, birds chirping, the golf season starting up, and four days of watching the best players in world compete at one of the most beautiful and iconic settings in golf, you really can’t ask for a more. We missed out on that feeling last year, and it’s making 2021 all the more special. The Masters was founded in 1934 by golf legend Bobby Jones and his friend Clifford Roberts. Jones and Roberts built the course on a beautiful piece of property that had previously been a nursery, with trees and plants coming from all over the world. When they decided to host their own championship, it was originally called the “Augusta National Invitation Tournament,” and held that name until 1940, when it became “The Masters Tournament”. Since inception, The Masters has been played in the first week of April, and Bobby Jones’ immense popularity combined with the sheer beauty of the course, immediately made the event one of the most popular on tour. Masters week begins with the Champions Dinner on Tuesday evening, with all of the previous winners in attendance and the reigning champion selecting the menu. On Wednesday, players compete in the famed Par-3 contest (interestingly, no winner of the Par-3 has ever gone on to win The Masters). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Par-3 contest will not be held this week.

The Field

Since Bobby Jones remained an amateur throughout his career, The Masters field includes a large number of accomplished amateurs, including the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and runner up, as well as winners of the British Amateur, Asian Amateur, U.S. Public Links and U.S. Mid-Amateur championships. Amateurs competing in The Masters also have the opportunity to stay at the “Crow’s Nest,” located in the clubhouse above the locker room—an experience that every talented young golfer dreams about. The Masters has the smallest field of all the majors, generally between 90 and 100 players. In addition to the amateurs, the top 50 players in the world automatically qualify along with players who have won the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, or Open Championship within the last 5 years. In addition, past Masters champions receive a lifetime invitation, allowing each player to decide for himself when the time has come to withdraw from the field. The favorite this week has to be Jordan Spieth. With a host of top ten finishes in 2021, fresh off a win at the Valero last week, a Green Jacket already hanging in his locker and a white-hot putter, Jordan has to be licking his chops. As the number one ranked player in world and reigning Masters champion, Dustin Johnson should be at the top of the list as well, but he’s been struggling with the driver as of late. Perhaps the familiar surroundings and positive vibe will rouse him—Augusta has always been a friend to the big hitter. And speaking of big hitters, Bryson DeChambeau will no doubt make his presence felt this week. Also keep an eye on Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm—all power players likely to be in the mix on Sunday. One of the great things about Augusta though, length means a lot—but not everything (remember Ben Crenshaw with a pair of Green Jackets). And the Masters can be entirely unpredictable as well—maybe we’ll see an amateur making history this week (Ollie Osborne perhaps?).

Augusta National Golf Club

Augusta National was established by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts in 1933. The course was originally designed by the legendary Alistair Mackenzie, with a great deal of input from Bobby Jones. Over the years, some of the great names in golf course architecture have lent their abilities to maintain the essence of Bobby Jones’ vision and keep the course current in the face of changing equipment, including Perry Maxwell, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and Jack Nicklaus. In addition to the eighteen-hole championship course, Augusta National also includes one of the finest par 3 courses in the world.

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The Valero Texas Open

The Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio, San Antonio  TX
TPC San Antonio, San Antonio TX

WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay Wrap-Up

Billy Horschel raised the trophy at the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay last week, outlasting 64 of the best players in the world after five grueling days of head-to head nail biting competition and a tough final against the long-hitting 24-year-old youngster, Scottie Scheffler. This had to be a sweet victory for Horschel, who’s last win came back in 2018, as he dug deep to pull out match after match. Most of the players everyone expected to reach the weekend didn’t make it to the final 16, so we had a chance to see some of the lesser-known players show off their skill and tenacity—including top flight European Tour pros like Victor Perez, Robert MacIntyre, and Eric van Rooyen. Since this is a WGC event with premium points, the win moved Horschel all the way up 7th position in the FedEx Cup standings. Beating a field like this one has to be a big confidence boost, and it will be interesting to see how Billy comes out of the gate at Augusta National.

Valero Texas Open

This week begins the Valero Texas Open held on the Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio Golf Resort in San Antonio. The Championship began nearly 100 years ago, and has been hosted in the San Antonio area from the very beginning. Over the years a number of different courses have been the venue for The Texas Open, including Brackenridge Park Golf Course, Willow Springs Golf Course, Oak Hills Country Club, Pecan Valley Golf Club, Woodlake Golf Club, and La Cantera Golf Club before TPC San Antonio became the permanent host in 2010. The event was historically played in the fall series of the PGA Tour season, but was switched to May in 2009 (and later moved to April, the week before the Masters). Some of the biggest names in golf history have won this event, include Walter Hagan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer (who won it three years in a row), Lee Trevino, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Ben Crenshaw, and Hale Irwin.

The Field

Often the field is a little weaker the week before a major championship, with players wanting to rest a bit and sharpen particular aspects of their game, but The Valero has attracted quite a few big names, including a hard charging Jordan Spieth (final 16 at the Match Play), Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar (3rd place at the Match Play), Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, and Phil Mickelson. Be sure to tune in this Thursday and catch some great golf as we head into Masters week.

TPC San Antonio

TPC San Antonio is a fabulous golf resort situated in the Cibolo Canyons in San Antonio, Texas. Established in 2010, and partnered with the JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, the golf courses are owned and operated by PGA Tour Golf Course Properties. The facilities consist of two eighteen-hole courses; The Canyons (a Pete Dye layout where the Valero is played) and The Oaks (designed by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia.) Texas is known for nasty wind, but Pete Dye laid out the Canyons to be very playable with quality golf shots, and the course conditions are immaculate, so players will still have the opportunity to go low. The Canyons was designed to promote aggressive play, so get ready for fireworks and excitement as we head into the weekend. The USGA course rating is 76.6 with a slope of 145 on the Canyons and 74.5/139 for the Oaks. And if you are thinking about a southwestern golf get-away, you can’t go wrong at the JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa—first class quality all the way.

TPC San Antonio received a GolfDay Rating of 100.

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The Honda Classic

PGA National Resort and Spa, Palm Beach Gardens FL

The Players Championship Wrap-up

Last week concluded The Players Championship, and it was quite a wild ride to say the least. At the end of the week, Justin Thomas emerged as the victor. Thomas had been rather quiet the first two days of the championship, but on Saturday he fired a blistering 64 which left him only three shots off the pace set by tournament leader, Lee Westwood. On Sunday, Thomas continued his solid play, shooting a comfortable 68, and finishing one shot ahead of Westwood. This was Thomas’ first win of the season and it kicked him all the way up to second place in the FedEx Cup standings. The Players almost felt like a replay of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as Bryson DeChambeau was in the mix again on Sunday, going off in the final pairing in back-to-back weeks with Lee Westwood. I think it’s a safe bet that Bryson will be lifting the championship trophy on quite a few Sundays in 2021 with the way he’s playing. And how about Lee Westwood, suddenly making putts to go along with the pure ball-striking that has been his trade mark for so many years. You won’t find a classier guy on tour, and it’s impossible not to pull for him (which it looks like we can do every week these days).

The Honda Classic

The Honda Classic is set to kick off this week in south Florida, with thrilling golf and a nail-biting finish pretty much guaranteed. Last year, seven players finished within three shots of eventual winner, Sungjae Im. In 2019, six players finished within three shots of winner Keith Mitchell, and in 2018 it came down to a playoff between Luke List and eventual winner, Justin Thomas. The event was originally played at Inverrary Country Club, and was known as “Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic”. Honda became the tournament sponsor in 1982, and from ‘84 through ‘91 the championship was held at Eagle Trace Golf Club in Coral Springs. After 1991, the tournament was hosted at a number of venues, including The Club at Weston Hills, Heron Bay Golf Club, and The Country Club at Mirasol, before finally settling at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort and Spa in 2007. When Jack remodeled the Champion Course in 1990, he created the treacherous three-hole stretch on the back nine that has become known as the “Bear Trap,” which over the years has provided some of the biggest thrills in golf (while guaranteeing that a player will have to hit more than a few extraordinary shots under pressure to take home the trophy).

The Field

Following the Players Championship, a number of big names will be taking the week off–but the field will still be plenty strong with past champion Sungjae Im, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ricky Fowler, Daniel Berger, Jim Furyk, and the red-hot Lee Westwood all teeing it up. Another player to keep a close eye on this week is the young Joaquin Niemann, who had consecutive runner- up finishes earlier in the year at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. Past Champions at the Honda include Jack Nicklaus (twice), Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Tom Weiskopf, and Vijay Singh.

PGA National Resort and Spa

PGA National Resort and Spa was established in 1980, and consists of five 18-hole courses, three of which (including the Champion Course), were originally designed by Tom Fazio, one of the great modern course architects. Jack Nicklaus lifted the Champion Course to even greater heights with the changes he made in 1990, with Arnie and Ed Seay adding their touch to this wonderful golf venue with the “The Palmer Course.” Karl Litten, a highly respected architect who often flies under the radar, designed the ‘The Estates Course.” In addition to the Honda, PGA National has been the site of many high-profile championships over the years, including the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982 through 2000. If you are planning a golf vacation, PGA National is a perfect choice. With five great courses and terrific accommodations, you will find an experience that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget to tune in for the Honda this week, you are guaranteed to see some great golf and big-time excitement come Sunday.

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The Players

TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach FL

The Arnold Palmer Invitational Wrap-Up

The Arnold Palmer Invitational concluded last week, with reigning U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau narrowly defeating a 47-year-old Lee Westwood. The final round offered plenty of excitement as Westwood, whose last tour win came at the St. Jude Classic back in 2010, fought tooth and nail with DeChambeau right down to final hole, only to lose by a single shot. Both men put on gutsy performances with everchanging gusty winds that made each shot a potential disaster. Jordan Spieth was once again in the mix on Sunday, continuing his run of solid play, but faltered on the back nine with bogeys on three of the last four holes. Still, he posted his third top five finish in his last four events (the other being a T15) and keeps knocking on the door in pursuit of his first win since the Open Championship in 2017 at Royal Birkdale. On a side note, Saturday’s round included a curious incident as tour veteran, Justin Rose, who started the day tied with Spieth and within four shots of the lead, suddenly walked off the course after making a nine on the par 4 third hole, leaving Jordan to play on alone. Rose later cited a back flare up as the reason he withdrew from the field mid-round. With DeChambeau’s victory, he catapulted to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, and heads to the Players Championship brimming with confidence.

The Players Championship

The Players Championship is one of the premier events on the PGA tour, often referred to as the “fifth major”. The Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass is an incredibly difficult test of golf, requiring not only power and precision, but a great deal of patience as well. Since the PGA Championship was moved from August to May, The Players will once again take place in March, the position it held in the tour schedule until 2007, when it was moved to May. Prior to 1982, when the TPC at Sawgrass became the permanent home, The Players was held at a number of different venues, including the Atlanta Country Club, Colonial Country Club, Inverrary Country Club, and Sawgrass Country Club. Some of the most memorable moments in golf history have occurred at The Players, including Gary Koch’s famous faux pas, “Better than most!” as Tiger Woods sank one of the greatest putts of all time on the Island Green 17th hole, Fred Couples raising his fist in celebration after making a lengthy eagle putt on the sixteenth hole en route to his second Players championship, and Fuzzy Zoeller famously wiping Greg Norman’s forehead with his towel following Norman’s victory with a record  score of -24. The Players is a very special event, and it takes a special player to win it. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us this year.

The Field

As always, the field for the Players will be the strongest and deepest on tour, with the possible exception of the major championships. In addition to the Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Bryson DeChambeau, the field will include Rory McIlroy (reigning Players champion), Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantley. While the eventual winner will no doubt be among the leaders in total driving, he will also be the player who keeps his cool when things get dicey—as they always do at some point on this Pete Dye masterpiece.

TPC at Sawgrass

The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, (TPC at Sawgrass for short) is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida near Jacksonville. Established in 1980, the magnificent facility features two 18-hole Pete Dye layouts (the Stadium Course and the Valley Course) as well as one of the finest practice facilities in the country. TPC at Sawgrass is also the headquarters of the PGA Tour. The Stadium course was designed by legendary architect Pete Dye, with his wife Alice, a fine architect in her own right. Modifications were later made by PGA Tour architect Steve Wezloff. The Valley course was designed by Pete Dye along with Jerry Pate and Bobby Weed in 1987. The Stadium course carries a rating of 76.4 with a slope rating of 155. The inspiration for TPC Sawgrass began with Deane Beaman, long time Commissioner of the PGA Tour, who wanted to create a bold and distinctive venue for The Players Championship that would stand the test of time. The TPC at Sawgrass is open to the public and partnered with the Sawgrass Marriot Golf Resort & Spa. When you prepare your golf destination bucket list, be sure to list it right at the top.

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The Arnold Palmer Invitational

The Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando FL
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando FL

The WGC Workday Championship Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the WGC Workday Championship. The reigning PGA Champ, Collin Morikawa, took home the prize as he finished the tournament at -18, three shots clear of runners-up Brooks Koepka, Billy Horschel, and Viktor Hovland. This was the fourth tour victory for the 24 old Morikawa, and he won in dominating fashion. The Concession Golf Club, a Nicklaus design and venue for the Workday, played like a bear as expected. Unless you were hitting it long and extremely straight off the tee, you paid a heavy price with only 21 of the 50 top ranked players in the world managing to break par. Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Adam Scott, all major champions, each finished at +5. Jack doesn’t want to see a putting contest, and when a championship is held on one of his courses, you can bet the winner will be at the top of the ball striking stats for the week—particularly driving. Morikawa hit an incredible 84% of the Fairways at the Concession, while averaging 286 yards off the tee. Johnson, on the other hand, averaged 306 yards off the tee, but hit only 57% of the fairways. Rose and Scott each averaged just under 300 yards, but hit only 66% and 64% of the fairways, respectively. Horschel and Hovland, who tied for second, hit 82% and 77% of the fairways. The only player at the top of the leader board not among the leaders in driving accuracy was Brooks Koepka (64%), which is a testament to his determination and grit, particularly on display in high profile championships. The way Koepka is playing this year, it seems like a lock that he will lift another major championship trophy in 2021, although Collin Morikawa may well have something to say about it.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational

This week starts The Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament bearing the name of one of the greatest and most loved players in the history of golf. The PGA Tour has a long history of tournament play in Orlando, Florida, dating back to 1966 and the “Florida Citrus Invitational,” played at Rio Pinar Country Club (which Palmer won in 1971). In 1970 Palmer leased the Bay Hill Club, purchased it outright in 1975, and in 1979 the PGA moved their Orlando event to Arnie’s course as “The Bay Hill Classic” and later the “Bay Hill Invitational.” In 2007 the tournament became known as the “Arnold Palmer Invitational.” Arnie’s presence always made Bay Hill a popular event among the top tour players, and his legacy continues with Bay Hill as one of the crown jewels in the PGA Tour schedule. Notable winners include Tiger Woods (a record 8 wins), Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and the late Payne Stewart. As a premium tour event, The Arnold Palmer Invitational awards 50 additional FedEx points to the champion.

The Field

As mentioned earlier, the Arnold Palmer Invitational features an extremely strong field. A few of the notable players competing this week include Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, and Jason Day. Rory would appear to be the favorite, having won at Bay Hill in 2018 and a solid 2021 season thus far with 2 top-10’s and an additional 4 top-25’s. Jordan Spieth’s recent surge makes him another player to keep an eye on, and he may be particularly motivated after failing to make the field for last week’s WGC championship. It’s also a pretty good bet that Bryson DeChambeau will be among the leaders on Sunday, with all that power and a strong performance following his slow start at The Concession last week (and he came close when Rory won in ’18). Bryson has also made many references regarding his affection for Arnold Palmer and his strong desire to win at Bay Hill—so there may be a little extra on those booming drives. As always, this will be one of the special weeks on PGA Tour schedule, so be sure to tune in.

The Bay Hill Club and Lodge

The Bay Hill Club and Lodge is located in Orlando Florida and the original eighteen holes were designed by famed architect Dick Wilson in 1961 (Champion and Challenger Nines). In 1969 Bob Simmons added an additional nine holes (Charger Nine). From the moment Arnie purchased Bay Hill in 1975 he made continual updates and improvements to the layout, and in 2009 the course underwent a major renovation under his direct supervision, making Bay Hill Club and Lodge one of the finest facilities in the country. The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played on the Champion and Challenger Nines, boasting a 76.4 course rating and a slope of 138.

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WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession

The Concession Golf Club, Bradenton FL

The Genesis Invitational Wrap-Up

Last week concluded The Genesis Invitational, and it was quite a wild ride. Max Homa fired a 66 on Sunday to tie Tony Finau, and then bested him in a playoff to claim victory. This was Homa’s second win on tour, and it vaulted him to number 10 in the FedEx Cup standings, as well as securing a spot in this week’s WGC Workday Championship. This latest defeat will likely weigh heavily on Finau, being the third playoff loss in a row in his quest to become a multiple winner on tour. When you shoot 64 at Riviera on Sunday to give yourself a chance, there is one hell of a lot to feel good about though. And the way Tony strikes the ball, it is only a matter of time—perhaps a major (or two) is in the near future. Another big story was 24-year-old Sam Burns, who led the tournament for most of the week and a good piece of Sunday, falling one shot short of the playoff with three bogeys on the back nine. Paired with Dustin Johnson in the final group on Sunday, he handled himself like a tour veteran. No doubt we’ll be seeing big things from this youngster as the season moves along.

WGC-Workday Championship

This week marks the start of the WGC-Workday Championship. Normally this would be the WGC-Mexico Championship, but due to logistical issues related to COVID-19, the venue had to be switched from Mexico City to south Florida. Prior to Mexico City, the WGC-Workday was played at a number of different venues, most notably a six year stretch at Trump National Doral in Miami from 2011 through 2016. Before moving to Doral, it was held on a rotational basis at different locations around the world including Spain (Valderrama), Ireland (Mount Juliet, a magnificent Nicklaus design), and Britain (The Grove). This year it will be held at the Concession Golf Club in Florida, another wonderful Nicklaus design. Tiger Woods has won this WGC event an astounding 7 times, a record that will stand for a very long time indeed. Outside of the majors and The Players, WGC events are the most highly prized championships on tour, and the winner is awarded 550 FedEx Cup points (50 more than what is awarded for a normal PGA Tour event).

The Field

WGC events are always great theater because the field is comprised of only the top ranked players in the world—the top 50 for the WGC-Workday. Players to keep an eye on this week include Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, and Xander Schauffele. Johnson may be particularly motivated after his lack-luster finish at Riviera last week (one over 72 on Sunday). Brooks Koepka is another player to keep a close eye on, coming off his win in Phoenix a couple of weeks back, and it’s hard to imagine Tony Finau very far from the lead on Sunday after the way he was moving it in LA. Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas are always dangerous, given the prodigious power they can bring to bear, particularly on a demanding Nicklaus layout where length is always at a premium. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a great tournament.

The Concession Golf Club

The Concession Golf Club is a private club located in Bradenton, Florida. It was founded in 2006, and designed by World Golf Hall of Famers, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. The club’s name is derived from one of the magical moments in golf history, when Jack Nicklaus conceded the final put to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history. The Concession is considered one of the best golf courses in Florida, with countless accolades from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and Golfweek. The Concession also offers one of the finest Par 3 courses in the country (The Gimme) as well as a wonderful putting course (Snake Acre). The star of the show, however, is the eighteen-hole championship layout, which has a course rating of 76.7 and a slope of 155 from the tips—guaranteed to be a very stiff test for even the greatest players in the world.

The Puerto Rico Open

This week also marks the start of the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate tournament held for players not eligible for the field at the WGC event. The tournament is being played at the Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. This Championship offers an opportunity for veterans to build their FedEx point total, while giving some of the young stars a chance to shine. The winner of the Puerto Rico Open is awarded 300 FedEx Cup points along with a spot in the field at the 2021 PGA Championship. If there are any superstitious coves among you, some believe there is a curse attached to the Puerto Rico Open, because with the exception of Michael Bradley (a 2-time winner of the event), and more recently Victor Hovland (who later won the Mayakoba Classic), nobody who won here ever won another event on Tour. Keep in mind that Tony Finau, who won the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, is a lock to put an end to the curse theory forever.

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The Genesis Invitational

The Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades CA home of the Genesis Invitational
The Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades CA

Greetings golfers! It’s a new year, and that means a fresh PGA Tour season! We all know how rough the last year has been with COVID-19, but 2021 is bound to be better for sure. A lot has happened on the tour since our last blog post. Tiger Woods underwent yet another back surgery, Bryson DeChambeau won his first major, (The U.S. Open) and Dustin Johnson won his second major, (The Masters). It was fascinating to see how differently Augusta National and Winged foot played in Fall, and both delivered the great play and thrills we expect from a major championship.

Six events have been played so far this season, and we saw quite a few great finishes. Brooks Koepka’s come from behind victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was particularly notable after a lengthy struggle to regain his form after the injury, and certainly signals his return as a force to be reckoned with as the tour season moves forward.

AT&T Pebble Beach Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Although COVID prevented us from enjoying the amateur portion of the tournament, we were treated to some blistering golf by Daniel Berger, who fired a final round 65 to finish two shots ahead of runner up Maverick McNealy. This was Berger’s fourth win on Tour, and the quality shots he delivered under pressure down the stretch, on a track like Pebble Beach, will certainly elevate his confidence as he pursues his first major championship. A suddenly revitalized Jordan Spieth led the tournament for most of the week, but he faltered on Sunday with a bogey on the Par 5 14th hole. Although he fought back with birdies on 17 and 18, it wasn’t enough to catch Berger and he finished tied for 3rd. The strong showing at Pebble after a solid top 5 finish the previous week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open may be an indicator that Spieth is back, and this may be the most exciting PGA Tour season in a long time.

The Genesis Invitational

This week is the Genesis Invitational played at iconic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The Genesis is one of the longest running stops on the PGA Tour, originally called The Los Angeles Open. Over the years the tournament has been played at a number of different venues, including the El Caballero Country Club, Wilshire Country Club, Hillcrest Country Club and Griffith Park Municipal Golf Course. Riviera was one of the first courses to host the LA Open all the way back in 1929, and became the permanent host from 1973 onward with the exception of two years when the course was hosting the PGA Championship. Tiger Woods made his debut as an Amateur at the LA Open in 1992. The biggest names in golf have won here, including Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Fred Couples, each of whom winning the tournament multiple times. In 2019, Tiger Woods added his lofty persona as the Tournament host.

The Field

The strongest field of the year tees it up this week at Riviera, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Colin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson. Tyler Strafaci, the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion, will also be in the field, and it’s always great to watch youngsters with a lot of game tee it up with the pros. Notably absent from the field is the tournament’s host Tiger Woods, who is still recuperating from his back surgery in December.

The Riviera Country Club

The Riviera Country Club, founded in 1926, was originally designed by famed architects George Thomas and William P. Bell. Through the years the course has been updated by highly regarded architects including Ted Robinson, Sr., Bill Coore, and Ben Crenshaw. Most recently Tom Fazio, one of the architectural giants of last fifty years, brought his talents to maintaining Riviera as a stiff test of golf in the modern era of power golf. In addition to hosting the Genesis Invitational, Riviera has been the venue for a number of major championships, including the 1948 U.S. Open, both the 1983 and 1995 PGA Championships, and the 1998 U.S. Senior Open. Riviera is also slated to host the 2028 Olympics, which should be a joy to watch.

We should be in for a great weekend of golf—make sure you don’t miss it.

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Payne’s Valley Cup

Payne's Valley-Big Cedar Lodge, Hollister MO
Payne’s Valley-Big Cedar Lodge, Hollister MO

U.S. Open Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the 2020 U.S. Open, and Bryson DeChambeau put on a performance for the ages. With little regard for the nasty, thick rough, he challenged virtually every hole with high booming drives to fire an amazing final round 67 and finish at -6, well clear of runner-up Matthew Wolff who finished at even par. The “Professor” used the off season to add about 30 pounds of muscle, which he turned into an enormous power surge, and combining that with meticulous analysis and calculation on every shot, achieved what none of the experts thought possible. Although he hit only 41% of the fairways for the week (23 out of 56), DeChambeau was still able to reach, and hold, the firm, lightning fast Winged Foot greens even when he missed a fairway, because his huge drives often left him with only wedges and short irons. As Rory McIlroy aptly stated, “I can’t wrap my head around it”. He’s not alone. Before the tournament got under way, DeChambeau said he would play Winged Foot with a “bomb and gouge” approach, and many people (including myself), questioned whether it would be an effective strategy. Obviously, the plan worked to perfection, and Bryson deserves all the credit in the world for redefining how a U.S. Open can be played. DeChambeau is now one of only three players to win the NCAA Championship, the U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Open–the other two being Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The 21-year-old Matthew Wolff also challenges conventional golf wisdom, with a loopy swing and feet that fly off the ground when he strikes the ball—but incredibly his drives were often even longer than the bombs DeChambeau was hurling. And what a week Matthew had. Although he ended with a disappointing final round 75, finishing a Winged Foot U.S. Open at even par is an extremely impressive performance (and normally more than enough to win). While over the last twenty years power has become an increasing factor for success on tour, there is no doubt that a new era in golf has begun with Bryson DeChambeau and the young PGA stars who kill it off the tee. Can anybody wait to see what they have in store for us at the Masters in November?

Payne’s Valley Cup

Even before you can clear your head from the amazing display put on by Bryson DeChambeau at the U.S. Open, another event that’s sure to knock your socks off is being played today–the Payne’s Valley Cup. The 18-hole charity match will have Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas taking on Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. The event is to mark the grand opening of the new Tiger Woods’ “Payne’s Valley” course, his first design that is open for public play, with all proceeds going to the Payne Stewart foundation, (2-time U.S. Open winner and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1999). The Payne’s Valley Cup will have three formats: 6 holes of best ball, followed by six with alternate shot, and then then 6 holes of individual stroke play. There will certainly be some questions surrounding the state of Tiger Woods’ game after missing the cut at Winged Foot, but match play is a format that always gets Tiger’s competitive juices flowing, and with this group we are sure to see aggressive play and plenty of fireworks. Thomas and McIlroy are both playing well, finishing tied for 8th place at the Open, and Justin Rose is major champion who is rarely off his game. When Tiger and Phil dueled in the “The Match: Champions for Charity” earlier this year, it provided the most unique and enjoyable golf theater I had ever seen—and I have a feeling that Payne’s Cup will be an equally wonderful day of golf. It’s airing at 3pm eastern time today on Golf Channel—you don’t want to miss it.

The Course

The match will take place on the Payne’s Valley course at Big Cedar Lodge Resort in the Ozark mountains of Hollister, Missouri. As mentioned earlier, Payne’s Valley is the first and only public golf course designed by Tiger Woods. Opening this week, the course is in meticulous condition and offers gorgeous views of the Ozark mountain landscape. With a USGA course rating of 75.6 and 132 slope from the tips, Payne’s Valley will challenge top notch golfers while multiple tee boxes offer everyday players the opportunity to test their game without needing to hit it 325 yards. Big Cedar Lodge Resort also offers two other great layouts, “Buffalo Ridge Springs” (designed by Tom Fazio) and “Ozarks National” (designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw). In addition to 3 wonderful eighteen-hole courses, Big Cedar Lodge also offers the thirteen-hole executive “Mountain Top” course (designed by Ben Crenshaw) and a nine-hole par-3 course (“Top of the Rock” designed by Jack Nicklaus). Big Cedar Lodge is ranked nationally by Golfweek as a Top 200 Resort, by Golf Digest as one of the top 10 in Missouri and is also host to the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf, an annual event on the Champions Tour. If you’re looking for a piece of golf heaven, you’ll find it at Big Cedar Lodge.

Get in-depth course details at GolfDay.

Informative ?

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2020 U.S. Open

2020 U.S. Open at the Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck NY
Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck NY

Safeway Open Wrap-Up

Last Week concluded the Safeway Open, where Stewart Cink mounted a come from behind victory to take the title. Cink shot a final round 65 (-7), and birdied three of his last four holes to defeat Harry Higgs by two strokes. This was his first tour win in over 11 years, the last victory coming at the 2009 Open Championship where he defeated golfing legend Tom Watson in a playoff (Watson was attempting to become the oldest player ever to win a major at nearly 60 years of age). With the rise of so many young guns on the PGA tour, it was nice to see a 47-year old veteran bring home the title. It was also something of a family affair for Stuart, with son Reagan on his bag and wife Lisa following them closely throughout the day. Cink later said that Lisa’s fortitude in her battle to overcome breast cancer had been a tremendous inspiration as he worked to get his game back to championship caliber.

2020 U.S. Open

This week begins the second major of the year, the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club. The U.S. Open is known for being the toughest test in golf, with the USGA striving each year to assure that their championship is one where shooting even par is an extremely good score. And when Winged Foot is the venue, their efforts are almost always rewarded. The legendary Bobby Jones won the first U.S. Open played at Winged Foot in 1929, shooting a score of 6 over par. In 1959, Billy Casper won at Winged Foot with a score of 2 over and in 1974 Hale Irwin recorded a 7 over total to take the championship. Fuzzy Zoeller is the only player to win the U.S. Open at Winged Foot with a score under par (-4). The last U.S. Open at Winged Foot was won by Geoff Ogilvie in 2006 at 5 over par. The U.S. Open has traditionally been played in mid-June, when the rough is heaviest and most difficult. Due to COVID-19, the USGA was forced to delay the Open until September—but you can be assured that Winged Foot will still present one of the ultimate tests in golf. In addition to the deep, thick rough, Winged Foot will also challenge the players with severe and lightning fast greens, as well as very tight fairways. Regardless of whether the USGA can set up the course for maximum difficulty, this year’s Open at Winged Foot is bound to be one of the best weeks of the year—as it always is.

The Field

As you would imagine, the field for this year’s Open is phenomenal. Dustin Johnson, FedEx Cup Championship trophy in hand, headlines a star-studded group of the elite names in golf. Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, defending U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, and 23-year old PGA champion Collin Morikawa will all be teeing it up. Unfortunately, 2-time Open Champ Brooks Koepka was forced to withdraw due to a lingering knee injury, so we’ll have to wait for next year to see if he can add a third trophy to his mantel. With the depth of talent on tour right now, there are a number of other players to keep an eye on as well. Winged Foot demands ball striking, and Tony Finau can hit it with anybody—so don’t be surprised if this is the week when he breaks through for his first major win. Patrick Reed is another outstanding ball striker, and he certainly has the nerve to stand up under U.S. Open pressure. And then there is Phil, coming off a win in his first Champions Tour event. Though unlikely to contend according to the experts, he has had some success at Winged Foot and if he keeps it in the fairway and his putter heats up—maybe this will be the week that he finally lands an Open after so many runner-up finishes. As for Tiger, he has not had much success on this course (missed the cut at Winged Foot in 2006), but he is still Tiger and anything is possible.

Winged Foot

Winged Foot Golf Club has two eighteen-hole major championship caliber courses, the East and the West. The West course has traditionally been chosen to host big events, and it will be again for the 2020 U.S. Open. Founded in 1923, Winged Foot is one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world. Both courses were originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast, and the West course has been updated over the years by legendary architects including Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Dick Wilson, George Fazio, and Tom Fazio. In recent years, the architectural integrity of both courses has been maintained under the guidance of Gil Hanse, renowned for his work with classic designs. Winged Foot gained immediate notoriety for both its beauty and toughness, with narrow fairways, heavy rough, and severely undulating greens that could test the greatest golfers in the world, and was chosen by the USGA to host the 1929 U.S. Open only 6 years after opening. Since then, Winged Foot has hosted 5 additional U.S. Opens (1959, 1974, 1984, and 2006), as well as the PGA Championship (1997), 2 U.S. Amateurs (1940, 2004), 2 U.S. Women’s Opens (1957, 1972), and a U.S. Senior Open (1980). Winged Foot is also known for its iconic clubhouse, which was designed by world renowned architect, Clifford Wendehack. The West course is currently ranked 11 and the East is number 52 among the Golf Digest top 100 courses in the U.S. Listed in the 2019 edition of the National Register of Historic Places, with peerless tradition and excellence, Winged Foot Golf Club stands at the top of what American golf and the USGA represent. What a week we have in store—enjoy it.

Get detailed course information on the Winged Foot Golf Club at GolfDay.

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