Already seventeen events into the 2017-2018 wrap-around season, the PGA tour is in full swing.
Many golf fanatics regard the annual Tournament of Champions, held in beautiful Kapalua, Hawaii, as the true “start” of the season because it is the first event held after ringing in the new year. While this may be the start of a new year, it is actually the eleventh tournament of the season.
Many of the early events held are often void of the game’s elites, such as Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Spaniard John Rahm and fan favorite Jordan Spieth, opening the door to gain valuable points in the season-long race for the FedEx Cup.
The season has already shown signs of young talents taking their first steps to success. Ryan Armour (Sanderson Farms Championship), Patrick Cantlay (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), Patton Kizzire (OHL Classic at Mayakoba) and Austin Cook (RSM Classic) all celebrated their first victories in 2017, with Cantlay, Kizzire and Cook earning their first PGA Tour trophies in successive weeks.
Although early season events lack a certain degree of star power, big names and veterans looking for a head start in the FedEx Cup points race are often present in the field.
OWGR No. 4 Justin Thomas and OWGR No. 5 Justin Rose both started their seasons in great fashion, with Thomas reigning supreme at the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and Rose clinching an inspiring come-from-behind victory at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, China.
The seventeenth event of the season, The Genesis Open, at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, was arguably the strongest field of the season to date.
The field included defending champion Johnson, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, 2017 Open champion Spieth and who could forget, Tiger Woods.
Woods made his first appearance at Riviera in twelve years, an event that did not end well for him. Tiger withdrew from the competition after shooting a second-round 74 in 2006, and his 2018 start resulted in a missed cut.
Notables in the field included: Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson and Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk, among others.
At the end of the week, it was Watson who bested the field. Watson turned in a 12 under par performance which was strong enough to win by two strokes. The title was Watson’s first since the 2015-2016 season, his third win at Riviera Country Club and his tenth career victory.
With the west coast swing completed, players shift their focus to the Florida swing. Three of the next four PGA Tour events will be held in The Sunshine State, excluding the World Golf Championships, Mexico Championship hosted in Mexico City.
The Florida swing presents great opportunities for all players to earn FedEx Cup points but possibly even more importantly, allows players to fine-tune their skills in preparation for the season’s first major championship.
A tradition unlike any other, The Masters is the only major championship that is held at the same venue every year, the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
The Masters will be held April 5-8, with the games biggest names competing for the coveted green jacket.
Johnson (+700) is the current favorite, followed closely by Spieth (+750), McIlroy (+850), Jason Day (+1400) and Rahm (+1400), according to Bovada.