Welcome back to the green! I hope 2022 is off to as good of a start for you as it already has been for a few PGA golfers. After the Hero World Challenge, there was a pause on PGA Tour action for about a month until it picked up again during the second week of January.
The first match of the year was the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which was held Jan. 6 through Jan. 9. It took place at the Kapalua Resort on the Plantation Course in Hawaii. Cameron Smith of Australia took home the $1,476,000 earnings and 500 FedEx Cup Points. Right from the start of the first round, Smith was hitting hard and finished 34 under par. Jon Rahm of Spain followed closely behind at just 33-under par and would be on Smith’s heels for the whole weekend.
Not only was Cameron Smith the first PGA Tour winner of 2022, but he also set a record in his win with 34-under 258, which is the lowest 72-hole total in the history of the PGA Tour. Previously, the record for 30-under shots was only held by Ernie Els with 31, Jordan Spieth with 30 and then Dustin Johnson who also shot 30-under.
Jon Rahm, who placed second at the tournament, was ranked the top golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking—making Smith’s win over him that much more impressive, albeit by a single shot. Rahm still claims the top spot in the ranking, despite the second-place finish. Another Australian, Matt Jones, rounded out the winners’ circle and took third place on the weekend with 32-under par.
Interestingly, the first place and third place Australian winners would both be cut in the next PGA Tour event, only making it to the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. The PGA Tour stayed in the Hawaiian tropics for the Sony Open, which was held Jan 13. to Jan 16. at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
The defending champion was American golfer Kevin Na, who came out hot in the first round, leading at 61-under par. However, this impressive performance didn’t last for long, as he would eventually finish in 20th place, tied with four other American golfers.
Fellow American Russell Henley followed Na for shots at 62 in the first round—indicative of what would be his placement at the end of the weekend as he would ultimately finish behind Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff at the 18th hole in round four.
Leading up to the playoff, scores were varied throughout the tournament, and it was truly any golfer’s match. Henley led the second round but then dropped down 15 places in the third, with Matsuyama at the top after only taking 63 shots. Matsuyama also took the lead in round four with 63 shots again, but Henley had two more with 65 and was several places below Matsuyama in the round. They both finished with 257 shots, punching each other’s ticket to a playoff, Matsuyama coming up from a five-shot deficit on the final holes.
Ultimately, Matsuyama shot an eagle on playoff while Henley settled for the bogey—and second place. Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning champion of the Masters, is now tied with K.J. Choi of South Korea for the most PGA Tour wins by an Asian-born golfer with eight victories. Back in 1983, Isao Aoki of Japan played in the Sony Open and became the first Japanese golfer to win on the PGA Tour. How did he do it? By finishing off with an eagle.
Seeing as golf is often dominated by white men, I think it’s incredibly important to recognize and appreciate golfers who don’t fit the stereotype and are very successful in their events. Hideki Matsuyama only continues to have exceptional performances in PGA Tour events while also being a phenomenal golfer who brings a lot to the sport and his Asian heritage. He continues to not only make history himself but also honors those before him who have had remarkable golf achievements, including those who became “the first” of their racial and/or ethnic background to accomplish something in the sport.
Speaking of which, the next PGA Tour event is The American Express, and the defending champion is Si Woo Kim of South Korea. He will be competing again this year, along with Henley and Rahm. The tournament begins on Thursday, Jan. 20 and goes on until Sunday, Jan. 23 at the La Quinta Country Club in California. Tune in to The Golf Channel for live coverage on Thursday.