Hideki Matsuyama gained 7.537 strokes putting to lead the Sony Open field, the first time he ranked first in SG: Putting in a full-field event. But it was the 3-wood he knocked stiff to three feet for eagle on the first playoff hole that ultimately wrapped up his eighth career PGA Tour victory.
Priced at 18-1, Matsuyama defeated Russell Henley on the first extra hole. Henley had a one-stroke lead heading to the par-5 18th but found the fairway bunker and settled for par. Matsuyama made birdie. Henley then found the same fairway bunker on the first playoff hole, and Matsuyama’s amazing 3-wood sealed Henley’s fate. This column settled for two third-place finishes, with Kevin Kisner and Seamus Power tied behind Matsuyama and Henley.
This week, the PGA Tour leaves the islands and commences the West Coast swing in Palm Springs, Calif., with the American Express. World No. 1 Jon Rahm, who finished runner-up to Cameron Smith two weeks ago at the Tournament of Champions, is the tournament favorite at 6-1. Rahm won this event in 2018. Smith, by the way, was tipped here two weeks ago ahead of the TOC.
Patrick Cantlay (9-1) was the runner-up at the American Express last year, losing by a stroke to Si Woo Kim (65-1). Scottie Scheffler (20-1) makes his 2022 debut and is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory despite being ranked 14th in the world. He finished runner-up at the Hero World Challenge in his last start in December. Sungjae Im (22-1) started 2022 with a top 10 in Maui but missed the cut last week in Honolulu. Tony Finau (22-1) finished fourth here last year.
Corey Conners (22-1, 11th last week), Power (33-1, 3rd) and Henley (35-1, 2nd) all played well at Waialae. Abraham Ancer (30-1) was the runner-up at the American Express two years ago. Matthew Wolff (33-1) makes his 2022 debut this week. Patrick Reed (35-1) won this event in 2014, shooting 63s in each of his first three rounds for a PGA Tour record of 27-under par through 54 holes.
Aside from Scheffler and Wolff, players making their 2022 debuts include Rickie Fowler (60-1), Jason Day (125-1), Gary Woodland (80-1), Francesco Molinari (175-1), Justin Rose (50-1) and Will Zalatoris (50-1). Cameron Champ (100-1) is back after missing the Tournament of Champions with COVID-19.
The American Express has had many different names since its inception in 1960, when it was established as the Palm Springs Classic. Most remember and still refer to this event as the Bob Hope, since it bore the entertainer’s name from 1965-2011. The tournament’s winners include legends such as Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1973), Jack Nicklaus (1963), Billy Casper (1965, 1969), Johnny Miller (1975, 1976) and Phil Mickelson (2002, 2004). Until 2012, the event was played over five days on four different courses before switching to a four-day event using three courses. Last year, only two courses were in the rotation as La Quinta Country Club was closed due to the pandemic. This year, La Quinta returns as does the three-course rotation, which means the cut comes after 54 holes.
This year's American Express will be played at the PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club.
After one round is played on each course, the Stadium Course will be used for Sunday’s final round. Designed by Pete Dye in 1986, the Stadium Course is a par-72 of 7,113 yards and usually plays one to two strokes harder than the Nicklaus course. Water is in play on nine holes. Bermudagrass with Ryegrass comprise the fairways and rough while TifDwarf Bermudagrass makes up the greens. The average score over the last six years is 70.87.