Another week in paradise for the PGA Tour

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Excuse us for a minute while we put on a little ointment on a couple of sunburn spots … here, here and here.

After a week in the Maui sunshine and the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, we’re gearing up, safely, for another week of Hawaii sunshine at Oahu for the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.

Ah, that feels much better. Sorry if you’re still shoveling snow and fighting less-than-ideal temperatures, but we all have sacrifices to make.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, we’re moving over to Oahu. With Harris English winning last week on Maui in a playoff it just goes to show that even a little time off for the holiday season didn’t affect the golf game of the top pros.

Last week was a no-cut, limited-field event. This week: it’s all hands on deck with 144 players teeing it up, the first full-field event in 2021.

While the event on Maui was fun and games (everyone got paid no matter where they finished), this week’s different. For those who didn’t play last week, if they miss the cut at the Sony it will wind up being a quick jaunt to Hawaii followed by an even quicker trip back to the mainland to try and figure out what went wrong.

A friend of ours who spent time on the PGA Tour, did just that. He flew in on Tuesday, played a practice round Wednesday and then was a quick two-and-done and heading back to Vegas. We asked why he didn’t at least hang around to enjoy the sunshine for a day or two, check out the beaches and relax a little.

His response? Nope, he needed to get back, iron out a few things and gear up for his next tournament. He added that no weekend play means no money and no money means no fun. Add in the expenses of getting to and from the event, staying a couple of nights and also paying his caddie and he shelled out an awful lot of money for a couple of rounds of golf.

Still think life on Tour is all fun and games? Not for those who are trying to eke out a good living. But, we digress. Let’s get back to this week’s tournament. This one is an event that can certainly provide fireworks and also launch PGA Tour careers — or at least give the winner a glimpse of what is possible.

Just ask last year’s winner here, Cameron Smith.

Smith, who won in a playoff over Brendan Steele, earned his second PGA Tour win and the first since 2017. He could breathe a sigh of relief and know he was exempt for a couple of years. But even that stress reliever doesn’t always lead to success.

After the victory, Smith’s game went south; way south. He followed it up with a T-64 at The Farmers Insurance Open but then missed five of six cuts, two coming right before the coronavirus shutdown and three coming right after the Tour picked back up. He then had a string of mid-pack finishes to end the year and managed to wind up T-24 at the Tour Championship.

Then, with the 2020-2021 wraparound season kicking off, something apparently clicked. He went on a tear. He started T-38 at the U.S. Open and improved to T-24 at The Shriners event in Vegas. A solo 11th at the CJ Open Cup at Shadow Creek was followed by three straight top 10s including a solo second at the Masters.

See a trend here? We certainly do.

We’re thinking Smith, at 25-1, is going to go back-to-back at The Sony Open for three simple reasons — his game is trending in the right direction and his win last year included an opening-round 70 but was followed up by three straight rounds in the 60s that got him into the playoff. He also had the chance to get warmed up in last week’s ToC where he was T-24.

But don’t count out English at 14-1. Last week’s win was his first since 2013 but he’s been playing lights-out for the better part of a year. In Maui, he won going up against the big boys, many of whom won’t be in the field this week as Colin Morikawa, ranked No. 7 in the world, is the top-ranked player on Oahu.

About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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