Sentry Tournament of Champions, Maui, Hawaii: Records Fall as Smith Soars
The first event of the calendar year 2022 was nothing short of exceptional. Conditions provided by mother nature were nothing short of perfect. There was very little wind all week. Not to mention that the golf course also offered up perfect putting surfaces. This course is known for its forgiving width off the tee. The result: a week of scoring never before seen on the PGA Tour. So good, in fact, that both 2nd place Jon Rahm (-33) and 3rd place Matt Jones (-32) would have eclipsed the previous lowest score for 72 holes held by Ernie Els (-31).
Unfortunately for Rahm and Jones, they ran into a red hot Cameron Smith. Smith was firing rounds of 65-64-64-65 to finish an astonishing 34 under par. Smith led the field all week long, solo through 36 holes and tied with Rahm after 54. He was able to hold a fierce charge from Rahm and Jones over the final 18. This certainly proves himself among the world’s best.
Sony Open, Honolulu, Hawaii: History Repeating
The first victory by a Japanese player on the PGA Tour came at this very event back in 1983. This was when Isao Aoki holed out a wedge shot on the final hole for eagle to defeat Jack Renner.
Nearly forty years on from that memorable shot by Aoki it was Japan’s most successful golfer, Hidecki Matsuyama who provided drama and another eagle to clinch the victory. He remained close to the lead through 36 holes held by Russell Henley. Back-to-back 7 under 63’s over the weekend propelled Matsuyama into a playoff with Henley. Matsuyama struck the shot of the tournament on the first playoff hole; an unbelievable 3-wood from over 260 yards, into a setting sun to 3 feet. With Henley in trouble, Matsuyama calmly rolled in the short putt to claim his 8th PGA Tour title. This ties him with K.J. Choi for the most wins by an Asian born player.
The American Express, La Quinta, California: Second Serving for Swafford
The American Express is a fun-filled week in the desert, offering perfect conditions, modest pins and birdies in bunches. The opening 36 holes saw world number 4, Patrick Cantlay lead the field on 130 (-14). Cantlay was vying for his third win in four starts to begin the wrap around 2021/22 season. He cooled over the weekend leaving him five strokes adrift on -18 at the close of play Sunday.
It was 2017 champion Hudson Swafford enjoying a second serving in the desert. Steady play throughout the first three rounds had Swafford sitting at 201 (-15). His opening nine holes Sunday of 33 (-3) did little to ensure a victory. He caught fire on the inward nine. Swafford shot 31 (-5), highlighted by an eagle at the par 5 sixteenth and birdie on the treacherous par 3 island green 17th, famously named ‘Alcatraz’, capped with a 20 footer. Swafford’s lone par on the back nine came at the closing hole. This is where he rolled in an 8 footer for a two stroke victory. Thus securing a third PGA Tour win.
Farmers Insurance Open, Torry Pines, California: Luke No Longer On The Winless List
Torrey Pines is a place that seemingly produces endless memorable moments in professional golf. Notably the US Opens of 2008 and 2021 immediately spring to mind. However, there are countless other times the course has hosted dramatic finishes. The 2022 edition of the Farmers Insurance Open would again prove to be nothing short of dramatic.
On a back and forth final day a stellar list of players were vying for the crown. John Rahm, current world number 1 and winner of last year’s US Open, headed this list. Alongside him was former world number 1 and 2018 Farmers Insurance Open champion, Jason Day.
For much of the day it looked as though 54 hole leader and Korn Ferry Tour standout graduate, Will Zalatoris would hoist the trophy. An early 66 (-6) almost two hours ahead of the leaders by Luke List gave him the clubhouse lead on 273 (-15). None of the leading players mounted a late charge, and after Zalatoris’ heartbreaking near miss from 8 feet on the closing hole, he and List were headed back to the 18th tee for a playoff.
After their 300+ yard drives found the fairway bunker to the right, no more than a foot apart, both players were forced to layup. Playing first for his third, List took advantage, spinning a wedge back down the slope to 11 inches for an easy tap-in birdie. Zalatoris played a fine approach leaving himself almost the identical putt he had missed in regulation. This time the putt never had a chance. He missed well to the right, giving List his first PGA Tour title and ending a 205 event winless streak.
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