The PGA Tour is back, finally, at last — time to return to work, at least for the upper-crust, the elite — the winners.
It’s a gathering of eagles starting Thursday at Kapalua, the place where you want to start your 2022 season. It basically means you won on the PGA Tour last year — with the exception of the guy who happened to grab gold in Tokyo — Xander Schauffele.
There were 40 players eligible to show up in Paradise this week to sample some of the Aloha Spirit — 39 were actual event winners, along with Mr. Gold Medal.
Turnout is super, all things considered. With Omicron being your basic pain in the butt back on the mainland, the only absentee is Rory McIlroy, who has chosen to begin his season later this month on the DP World Tour, which used to be the European Tour until the folks at DP World threw a bunch of money at Keith Pelley and the rest who run that tour.
You’ve got the world’s top two on display this week — No. 1 Jon Rahm and No. 2 Collin Morikawa. We haven’t seen Rahm-bo since the Ryder Cup so it will be interesting to check out the state of his game. Collin won the DP World Tour Championship just before Thanksgiving then tied for fifth at Tiger’s get-together at Albany in December.
Another extended vacationer was Patrick Cantlay, your 2021 FedEx Cup champion. He hasn’t been seen since the Ryder Cup and Mr. Smile has a ton of expectations on him in 2022.
Along with Rahm and Morikawa, Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama is teeing it up along with PGA champ and self-declared PIP winner Phil Mickelson. There will no doubt be questions for Lefty about that PIP claim as the Tour will neither confirm or deny his victory in true CIA-like fashion.
You have everyone from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings in the field with the exception of No. 3 Dustin Johnson, whose six-year win streak came to an end in 2021. Once again, Xander (No. 6) didn’t win anything with the exception of that Olympic Gold and even worse, he didn’t win anything in 2020 either. When you talk about someone who needs to step it up, he needs to win before those “over-rated” whispers get louder.
There are 10 first-timers in this field and they’re worth mentioning because as everyone out there keeps telling whoever will listen — it’s tough to win on the PGA Tour.
Abraham Ancer, Sam Burns, Joel Dahmen, Cameron Davis, Taylor (the) Gooch, Lucas Herbert, Garrick Higgo, K.H. Lee, Seamus Power and Erik Van Rooyen are in Kapalua for the first time.
Best of that bunch may be Sam Burns, who came on like a freight train and won twice — Valspar and Sanderson Farms — in 2021. Herbert, Higgo, Power and Van Rooyen were European Tour guys who won and gladly accepted the two-year PGA Tour membership that goes with a victory.
Players to watch this year include Viktor Hovland, who has jumped to No. 8 in the world. He just keeps getting better as each month passes. Tony Finau has gotten a handle on his putting and that should serve him well in major championships in 2022. Jason Kokrak found out he can win and win again. Jordan Spieth has jumped back into the top 15 in the world and you wonder if there’s a major in his future in 2022?
There are a lot of questions to answer this season. There may be a few hints this week.
The thing about this event is the small, 39-player field. Some will show up ready to play, some will look, well, rusty.
Good news — it’s live golf with a lot of stars.
No more re-runs of the Barbasol Championship.
And that’s a good thing.
Television Broadcast Schedule:
Thursday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m (ET): The Golf Channel
Friday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (ET): The Golf Channel
Saturday: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (ET) The Golf Channel
Sunday: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. (ET), NBC; 6 p.m.-8 p.m. The Golf Channel