It’s hard to believe we’re saying this, but the PGA Tour is back already. It seems like it was just yesterday we were crowning Rory McIlroy as the FedEx Cup champion and handing him a $15 million check.
But here we go again.
We start out the season with everybody tied for the lead in the FedEx Cup race with ‘0’ points and envisioning holding the FedEx trophy at the end of the wraparound season next August.
Everyone’s dream is alive and well. For now.
The new season’s first event, A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier, would usually see many relative unknowns tee it up as a majority of the Tour’s top players have tended to skip the early-season events.
But now that the wraparound season starts earlier in the year (September vs. October), that is going to result in more of the big names getting a jump in the hunt for cash and points by playing earlier events.
There are more events on the schedule before the calendar will flip to 2020 with 11 on tap this fall. Then comes the calendar hitting 2020 and the West Coast swing that starts way, way out west with the Tournament of Champions in Maui (winners only, please ... so this week would be a great time to make your reservation to play at Kapalua).
But this fall, there are enough events to pique everyone’s interest from Day 1. Some of those include a WGC event (HSBC Champions in China), a silly season event (the QBE Shootout, a two-man team event with no FedEx Cup points), the 18-man Tiger Woods fun-time extravaganza (known as the Hero World Challenge, also no FedEx Cup points) as well as regular events.
The bottom line is it’s more important than ever to get on the points scoreboard early and often. Win an early event and you’ve all but cemented your spot in the early round or rounds of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
But those windows may be closing quickly. Just check out the news that world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, fan-favorite Phil Mickelson and former UNLV player Adam Scott (albeit for a short time) have all committed to play in this year’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
This Koepka-Mickelson-Scott news shows many of the top-ranked players have already filled in a couple of tournament spots the lesser-known players probably thought they might get. That’s going to mean there may be a run on other early-season tournaments by names like Dustin Johnson (although he’s mending a knee after surgery), Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and others who could wind up stealing the TV spotlight and a few of the big checks.
That being said, this week’s event in West Virginia features an interesting field. We’re going to look hard at defending champ Kevin Na at an astounding 40-1. He had scores of 63, 65 and 64 over the final three rounds of last year’s event to win by five strokes.
And he won twice in a 10-month span for the first time in his career (adding the Charles Schwab Challenge in May) so whatever he’s doing to improve his game and move up the world rankings list, it’s working. He’s now 34th, moving up from 48th at the end of 2018.
When you’re coming off a two-win season and can tee it up without all the fanfare of some of the bigger names in the event and on a course you’ve had success on, you’ve got to like your odds.