Since the 2013-14 PGA Tour season returned to the U.S. late last year following a brief swing through Asia, Georgia’s contingent of approximately 30 Tour members have enjoyed an unparalleled run of success.
Patrick Reed’s wire-to-wire victory in the Humana Challenge made it four victories for golfers with strong ties to Georgia in the last five PGA Tour events. Add four unofficial victories in tournaments played late in 2013, and Georgians have won eight of the last nine tournaments played in the U.S. and Mexico featuring PGA Tour players.
Nine tournaments into the 2013-14 schedule, Georgians hold down the 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions in the FedExCup standings, with six of the top 11 on the points list. Of the leading 125 players in the most recent standings, 22 are Georgians.
The only thing keeping Georgia from sweeping each of the last five PGA Tour titles was a one-shot victory by Jimmy Walker over Chris Kirk in the Hawaiian Open. Kirk’s runner-up finish was one of four by Georgians in the seven 2013-14 PGA Tour events played in the U.S. or Mexico, as players from the state have filled up the top of leader boards just below the winner.
Kirk, a Woodstock native, began the run of Georgia victories early last November in the McGladrey Classic played at Sea Island Golf Club. Kirk, a member of the 2005 NCAA champion Georgia golf team, won by one shot over Briny Baird, who began his college career at Georgia Tech before transferring to Valdosta State. Kirk lived on St. Simons Island for a number of years before recently returning to Atlanta.
Augusta native Scott Brown, who won as a PGA Tour rookie in 2013, was just two strokes back in 4th place. Brown began the 2013-14 schedule with a tie for 3rd in the Frys.com Open.
The week after the McGladrey, south Georgia native and St. Simons resident Harris English scored his second victory of 2013, rolling to a 4-shot win in the Mayakoba Classic. English, a member of Georgia’s 2011 NCAA runner-up squad, won earlier in 2013 in Memphis. At the time, he was the only player under the age of 25 on the PGA Tour other than Rory McIlroy with two victories.
Patrick Reed made it three with his win in the Humana Challenge.
Tying for 2nd at Mayakoba was Acworth resident Jason Bohn, one of the state’s PGA Tour veterans. Bohn, who also tied for 2nd in Las Vegas in an early 2013-14 event, is currently 10th in the FedExCup standings.
English picked up an unofficial team title in the Shark Shootout, teaming with fellow St. Simons resident Matt Kuchar to score a runaway 7-stroke victory in late 2013. English and Kuchar shot 34-under over 54 holes.
The other team event held in early December was the Father-Son Challenge, which was won by Duluth’s Stewart Cink and his college age son Connor, who were competing in the tournament for the first time. Cink and Kuchar were both college standouts at Georgia Tech.
Kevin Kisner, a teammate of Kirk on the Bulldogs’ 2005 NCAA Championship squad, won the unofficial late-season Pebble Beach Invitational, edging recent Georgia Tech golfer Chesson Hadley by one shot. Kisner, a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour, is back on the PGA Tour this season, with Hadley also a PGA Tour member after an outstanding Web.com Tour showing in 2013, which he capped by winning the Tour Championship.
Kisner is a native and resident of Aiken, S.C., located just outside Augusta. Brown is also an Aiken resident.
The biggest American event played late in 2013 was the World Challenge, hosted by Tiger Woods. St. Simons resident Zach Johnson won the tournament, beating Woods in a playoff after a dramatic finish in regulation.
Johnson birdied the 17th hole in the final round at Sherwood Country Club to tie Woods, but appeared to give away his chance at victory when he hit his approach shot at the 18th into a hazard short of the green. He then holed his fourth shot from 58 yards for a closing par to force a playoff, winning when Woods missed a par putt on the first extra hole.
Kuchar and former UGA golfer Bubba Watson tied for 3rd in the tournament, four shots out of the playoff.
Johnson picked right up where he left off in the 2014 opener, winning the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Johnson birdied four of his last seven holes for a 7-under 66 to overtake third round leader Jordan Speith, who was two ahead of Johnson after 54 holes.
After ending the 2013 season as one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour, Johnson opened 2014 with top 10s in his first three starts. including a tie for 3rd in the Humana Challenge. Johnson shot a final round 62 that included five straight birdies to end his round and nine birdies on his last 12 holes.
Johnson was 4th in the FedExCup standings after his tie for 3rd in the Southern California desert.
Kirk and English both had chances to win in the Hawaiian Open. Kirk placed 2nd, one shot behind Walker, and English slipped to 4th after holding the lead on the back nine before Walker birdied four of the last six holes. Kirk was 2nd in the FedExCup standings behind Walker after the Himana Challenge and English was 3rd.
Reed, member of Augusta State’s NCAA Championship teams of 2010 and ’11, scored an impressive win in the Humana Challenge, shooting 9-under 63 each of the first three rounds on three different courses. He led by seven after 54 holes, settling for a 2-stroke victory after a final round 71 gave him a 28-under 260 total.
It was the second PGA Tour win for Reed, who captured the 2013 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., to highlight a strong rookie season. Reed won in a playoff over Spieth, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, with the conclusion among the most exciting on the PGA Tour for the entire season.
Reed was 8th in the FedExCup standings after his victory.
Augusta native Charles Howell was 11th on the FedExCup points list after four top-10 finishes in his first seven starts of the 2013-14 season.
Brown was 14th on the strength of two top-4 finishes, with Baird 20th and Atlanta’s Brendon Todd 21st. Todd, who won the now-defunct Web.com Tour Stadion Classic at UGA last year, has played remarkably consistent golf beginning with his win in Athens.
In his last 13 starts on the PGA Tour since the start of the 2013 season, Todd has nine top-20 finishes and has placed 26th or better in all but two of those appearances. In 10 starts on the Web.com Tour last year, he was 21st or better eight times, ending the season with a tie for 2nd in the Tour Championship.
Todd, also a member of Georgia’s 2005 NCAA Championship team, contended in the Humana Challenge, playing in the final group Sunday along with Reed. He wound up in a tie for 6th, his career nest PGA Tour finish.