The PGA Tour’s 2017 West Coast swing began in Hawaii with the first of two annual events and includes four tournaments in California and one in Arizona.
For Georgia’s contingent of approximately 30 PGA Tour members, the West Coast has been a mostly inviting stretch of tournaments, but not all the state’s tour players have established a track record of success in the early season events out West.
Among the state’s veteran group of PGA Tour players most looking forward to this year’s West Coast Swing was Davis Love, who is coming back from hip surgery in 2016 and made two starts last Fall, including one at home in the RSM Classic at Sea Island GC.
Love, who turns 53 in April, will be out of action for a few months after breaking his collarbone in a snowboarding accident during the first few days of the new year. Love had surgery to repair the injury and is expected to be sidelined at least three months. Love was out for four months last year after undergoing hip surgery.
The member of Georgia’s PGA Tour contingent who has enjoyed the most success on the West Coast during his career is Augusta native Charles Howell, who has challenged for victory in five of the six tournaments, excluding the annual winner’s only calendar opener in Hawaii.
Howell is particularly fond of the Hawaiian Open with eight career top 10s, including seven finishes of fifth or better. He also scored one of his two career wins in Los Angeles, winning in a playoff against Phil Mickelson in 2007, and has lost playoffs in both LA and the Bob Hope Classic in 2013. Howell also has a pair of top-6 finishes in Phoenix since 2010, and has six top 10s in San Diego, twice finishing as runner-up behind Tiger Woods, who has won eight times at Torrey Pines.
St. Simons Island resident Matt Kuchar has four top-10 finishes in the Hawaiian Open the past six years along with a pair of runner-up showings in the Bob Hope Classic in 2010 and ’15.
Fellow St. Simons resident Zach Johnson won in Hawaii in 2009 and has a pair of top 10s there in the past three years. He also has a pair of top 20s, including a third place finish in 2014 in the Hope, but like Kuchar, has only a handful of strong showings in the other west Coast events.
Bubba Watson placed fourth in his PGA Tour debut in Hawaii in 2006, and has claimed three title in his career in California, winning in San Diego in 2011 and at Riviera CC in LA in 2014 and ’16. The former Georgia Bulldog also scored back-to-back runner-up finishes in Phoenix in 2014 and ’15, along with a second place showing in the Bob Hope in 2010. Watson has dropped the Hawaiian Open and Bob Hope Classic from his schedule, and like a number of players from the state, has no record of success at Pebble Beach.
One of the few Georgians who has played well at Pebble Beach is Augusta’s Vaughn Taylor, who will defend his surprise 2016 victory there in Febuary. Prior to his win last year, Taylor had never placed higher than seventh in any of the West Coast events during his career.
Acworth resident Jason Bohn has been playing on the PGA Tour since 2004, but his only top 10 on the West Coast swing was a 10th place finish in the LA Open in 2009. Bohn has some strong showings in West Coast events in the Fall, but has struggled in early season tournaments his entire career.
Duluth’s Stewart Cink has three career top 5 finishes in three different West Coast events, but the last of those came in 2008 in San Diego. His last top 10 was in the 2013 Bob Hope. The former Georgia Tech standout also had a history of success in the WGC Match Play event when it was played early in the season in Arizona.
Fellow ex-Yellow Jacket Bryce Molder has top-16 finishes in five of the six West Coast events, with his his bets showings a pair of sixth place showings in Los Angeles in 2014 and Phoenix last year.
Two of the state’s younger PGA Tour members have won on the West Coast with former Augusta State standout Patrick Reed winning the Bob Hope in 2014 and the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in 2015. Reed has also played well at Pebble Beach with a pair of top-10 finishes the last four years.
Macon native and ex-UGA golfer Russell Henley won the 2013 Hawaiian Open in his PGA Tour debut, but apart from a third place finish in the 2015 Tournament of Champions, also in Hawaii, has not played well on the West Coast since.
Henley’s former UGA teammate and fellow Georgia native Harris English has enjoyed more success out west than any of the twenty-something Georgians on the PGA Tour, contending for victories in three different tournaments. English was fourth in the Hawaiian Open in 2014 and third the next year, lost a playoff in San Diego in 2015 and placed third in Phoenix last year.
Woodstock native Chris Kirk, who preceded Henley and English on the UGA golf team, has only three West Coast top 10s, but two of them were runner-up finishes – at Pebble Beach in 2013 and the Hawaiian Open in 2014. He finished fifth in Hawaii the previous year.
Other top finishes by younger Georgia PGA Tour members on the West Coast swing include:
Kevin Kisner, fifth last year in Hawaii; Luke List, sixth last year in the Bob Hope; Roberto Castro, eighth at Pebble Beach last year; Patton Kizzire, eighth in San Diego last year; Brian Harman, fourth in LA in 2014; Hudson Swafford, eighth in Hawaii in 2014.