2024 PGA Tour's West Coast sensations

- Golf tournaments

THE SENTRY, Plantation Course, Kapalua, Maui Jan 4-7, 2024

Kicking off the 2024 calendar, The Sentry, the first PGA Signature event, hosted winners – only from 2023 as well as a new PGA addition of Tour Championsip top 50 ranked players vying for the $20 Million purse. Only reigning 2023 Sentry Champion Jon Rahm and World No 2 Rory McIlroy were absent in this Maui star-studded field hoping to bring some tourists back after the horrendous tempest which devasted nearby historical Lahaina  in August. Surprisingly calm humid weather was predominant rather than traditional tradewinds winds,  over the hilly testing par-73 Plantation Course yielding birdies and eagles to the no-cut field of top golfers.

Chris Kirk out played Spieth (bogey on 16 and missed putt on 18 for 65) and Theegala (missing his birdie on 18 for a 63). Kirk’s superb birdie on the tough 17th gave him an easy finish for his sixth PGA victory. Kirk, 38-year-old winner of the 2023 Honda Championship, also received 2023’s “Courage Award” for his conquering of depression and alcoholism.  His return to Kapalua after eight years, earning $3.6 Million allowed him to be emphactic ,  “I’m so thankful for these last five years. It’s been incredible. I’m enjoying competing, the work. I didn’t have that for a while.” 

Birdies galore opened The Sentry with Salih Theegala firing -9 (64) followed by Morikawa -8 tied with Villegas, Sungjai Im, and Jason Day,  and Hovland all close on the leaderboard. World No. 1 Scheffler with -7 Thursday captured the lead at -15 Friday with a 64. Tyrrell Hatton had Friday’s best round – a sensational 62 (-11) to vault into second while Im and Kirk vaulted into third with some gusty winds. On moving day Saturday, cloudy skies and some gusts helped Kirk gain the lead with a 66, while Sentry debutant Akshay Bhatia ties the PGA’s 199 shots 54-hole tour record, to be in second, with is  (-20), Schauffele third -19. 

Max Homa’s set a PGA Tour record -the longest drive in the Shotlinkera (2003)- was 477 yards on the par-4 7th

Sony Open, Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, January 11-14, 2024

In the shadows of famed Diamond Head at Waialae Country Club, 2024’s first PGA full field event teed off at testing Waialae’s CC par-72 course. Champions galore like Jack Nicklaus, Hawaii’s favorite Michelle Wie plus victors crowned here recently – Cam Smith, Kevin Na, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama-  adding tomore PGA titles …

Brilliant was 2024 winner Grayson Murray for his first win in six years. In a three-way play-off with a long 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th   green. He captured standing  applause from the overflowing galleries! Keegan Bradley and Byeong Hun An were inside Murray and missed their putts ending play and drama.  Murray’s 67 and play-off W (-17 for 263 total) Sunday got him back in the winner’s circle after previous issues here in Honolulu putting him on PGA probation for conduct issues.

Numerous new talents tested Waialae’s trying challenge from Japan but also young European pro’s like Belgium’s Adrien Dumont de Chassart or older pro’s on new exemptions – France’s Michel Pavon (finished tied seventh),  European Ryder Cuppers Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and  Sweden’s Ludwig Aberg, plus Finland’s Sami Valimaki.

Farmers Open, Torrey Pines Golf Club (North & South Courses), La Jolla, California, Jan. 24-27, 2024 S9 Million Prize

Over iconic Torrey Pines challenging cliffs oceanfront Torrey Pines tested all with rain, winds, and soggy, long rough to make the cut and vy for the $9 Million prize. Final rounds were over the daunting South course with California home favorites Schauffele, Homa, Morikawa trying to qualify; rain cancelled Monday practice. 

Soggy South Course was in play for the final two days with dense rough plus variable Pacific weather. Chilly temperatures didn’t help anyone to make the cut; Morikawa missed. Europeans – debutants Dane Nicolai  Holgaard, France’s Matthieu Pavon,  Belgium’s Detry, Germany’s Stephan Jaeger (leader -11) – topped the leaderboard with superb play over the wet exacting championship layout. 

This famed US Open venue welcomed finally a surprising winner—France’s Matthieu Pavon triumphed in Saturday’s finish with a 69 to get in the record books. Pavon is the first French player to win on the PGA Tour in the modern era. His opening bogey he offset with five birdies to narrowly overcome Danish Ryder Cup star Nicolai Holgaard writing French history. He will most likely be eligible to represent France at Paris’ summer Olympics. Pavon, 31 years old was playing  in his 11th PGA event; this was only his third start as a  PGA Tour member, and his second win following his 2023 Madrid DP World Tour victory last fall.  

Pavon shared with Golf Stars, “Greens were more bumpy today but still receptive from the rains, really tough out there. Key  was to stay in the fairway, particularly with the varying winds…great to get the final birdie on 18 and win. Trusting the process has led to my success.”

Matthieu PAVON 3th tee - ATT Pebble Beach

ATT Pro-Am, Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course, February 1-4

One of the PGA’s historical events for decades with all the top players including Rory McIlroy contending in a new revised format only for invited amateurs competing for 36 holes. Played at both Spyglass and Pebble Beach Links, only the pro’s were to finish the final 36 holes at Pebble Beach. The 80-man field — the strongest and smallest for Pebble Beach, is now a signature event offering a $20 million purse. Regretfully 2024’s cuvee of play was shortened to 54-holes due to inclement weather across California’s Monterey Peninsula. In spite of the rain, the ATT had many brilliant moments both on the course and off for selected stars, personalities and spectators….Carmel’s charms, Monterey’s moments, and Pebble Beach’s brilliant allure enticed all to the Penisula and to keep returning.

Reigning US Open Champion Wyndham Clark Saturday’s fabulous play at Pebble Beach Links and sizzling putting to take the 54-hole lead and the title after additional play was cancelled by the PGA. His Saturday course record of -12 for 60 was phenomenal—another historical Pebble Beach moment!

Sweden’s Aberg -16 was second one shot behind Clark’s -17, Pavon third -15 and Detry -14 tied with US’s Hubbard -14 for fourth place. Defending Champion Justin Rose battled brilliantly posting -11 for 11th place. 

France’s Pavon topped the 2024 Fedex Cup standings after ATT Pebble Beach with his superb play in the shortened 54-hole event where he was third another historical first for France.

Rory Mc Ilroy 16th tee ATT Pebble Beach

Waste Management Phoenix Open, TPC Scottsdale, Phoenix, Arizona, February 8-11$8.8 Million purse

Surprisingly Scottsdale’s “Valley of the Sun” was chilly, gusty, cloudy, showers causing multiple suspensions of play for “The People’s Open” as it is popularly known due to its enormous popularity.  2024’s cuvee saw over 200,000 spectator’s arrive Saturday, forcing gates to be closed for a period. 

Darkness halted play Thursday with Theegala (-6 ) leading over Shane Lowery and S.H. Kim (-4) on TPC’s testing par-71 home to its famed par-3 16th – “The Coliseum” of fun-loving fans and the fan lined  driveable par-4 17th with water greenside. Preferred lies played due to continued weather issues with breaks in play from storms  jamming play. “Crowds were waiting this am at 5:00” smiled Justin Thomas Friday, ”they are great, they make this a special event.” Amazing for the golfers; sadly crowds became rowdy, sliding in mud, consuming too much alcohol in Saturday’s testing conditions not normal for Scottsdale. The cut was -2. 

Canada’s Nick Taylor excelled in these conditions with a course record 60 taking the lead while Scottsdale’s fan favorite 47-year old Charley Hoffman surged upward;  reigning 2022 defender Scheffler stalled. Taylor rallied with birdie on 15, followed by superb play in the Coliseum and then on 18 to force a play-off – a repeat of the 2023 play-off having lost to Scheffler then. In fast approaching darkness, two playoff holes later having played two more birdies on the 18, Taylor finally triumphed. “A marathon day, finding my swing a bit in the last nine to 10 holes, then to make some birdies was incredible,” smiled a thankful Taylor.  Hoffman, smiling as always still a fan favorite, was gracious and will be back in 2025 for his fans.  

2024 GENESIS INVITATIONAL, Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California, February 15-18, 2024

The PGA‘s Tour 3rd Signature event, saw Tiger Woods, Tournament host, teeing it up for the first time in 2024. A fabulous finish of PGA Tour’s West Coast swing by Hideki Matsuyama with sensational play with a stellar 62 Sunday on GC Thomas Jr’s championship masterpiece – Riviera Country Club – saw Japan’s Matsuyma triumph.

Riviera’s famed Hogan’s Alley suited Matsuyama to a tee to match Freddy Couples’ record! Cloudy, humid weather getting colder in the afternoon didn’t deter Matsuyama from almost setting a new course record at RIV. Opening with birdies on the first three holes, then another birdie binge on the back with a superb short game, sizzling putting catapulted Matsuyama to the top of the leaderboard after starting 6 shots behind leader Patrick Cantalay. Suffering  from back and neck issues for months, Sunday Matsuyama was only smiles. Fortunately no pains recently, yielded his 9th career PGA win cementing his place as Japan’s greatest ever, plus another 18th Hole flag souvenir for Hideki and Shota his smiling caddy! 

“Short game was very good, I want to keep this momentum going forward especially for Augusta, plus keep feeling good. Executed many shots perfectly, my first top 10 since last 2023 Players Championship. I have  a perfect place for this Trophy at home…” assured Matsuyama.  

Will Zalatoris made a surge upwards finishing tied second with Luke List who lost ground on the closing nine; Cantalay tied for fourth with Schauffele.  Tournament host Tiger Woods, teed it up shooting +1 Thursday before retiring after six holes Friday with fever and influenza to the regret of all.

Susanne Kemper

Photo Susanne Kemper

Susanne Kemper

Susanne Kemper has covered the US PGA Tour’s West Coast swing and key events, DP European Tour’s events, Ryder Cup since Valderrama, WCG, British Open, US Open, plus South African, Latin American, and Australian Major tournaments for 20+ years and numerous LPGA, LET and Solheim Cups.