Golf: As Dustin Johnson was in the process of blitzing the field at Kapalua, Tiger Woods announced his West Coast plans and Bones Mackay will pick up a caddie bib for a week.
By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor
- Tiger Woods will start his 2018 season at his accustomed spot, keeping his West Coast Swing centered around Southern California. Woods announced last week that he would once again begin his calendar year at Torrey Pines, where he’s racked up eight of his 79 PGA Tour wins. He missed the cut at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Three weeks later he’ll tee it up at the Genesis Open, where he’s now tournament host though Riviera Country Club has never been kind to him. Woods is winless at Riviera, with a pair of runner-up finishes in the 1990s but just one top-5 since. He hasn’t played the Riviera stop since 2006.
- Bones Mackay is back on the bag, though only as a temporary gig. The now-Golf Channel course reporter is setting down his microphone this week to loop the Sony Open for Justin Thomas, who needs a stand-in as Jimmy Johnson recovers from foot woes. Johnson struggled the first two days at Kapalua, with Thomas relieving him on the weekend in favor of his father Mike. Interestingly, Mackay hasn’t seen Waialae Country Club in 25 years because former boss Phil Mickelson never played the Sony Open. Whether the arrangement lasts more than one week remains to be seen.
- Rory McIlroy is moving into the Golden Bear’s South Florida neighborhood – with a little assist from the Big Easy. McIlroy has purchased Ernie Els’ home at the Bear’s Club, a 17,000 square-foot palace with a back yard that backs up to the 12th tee. The purchase price hasn’t been disclosed, but consider McIlroy has put his smaller Palm Beach Gardens home on the market for $12.9 million. Els, meanwhile, was in the market after building a new home in the Old Palm neighborhood of Palm Beach Gardens.
- As Jimmy Walker continues to battle back from Lyme disease, we learn his wife has contracted the illness as well. Erin Walker made the revelation in a blog post, saying she was given the diagnosis just 10 days before Christmas. That came just eight months after the former PGA Championship winner learned his own fate on the eve of the Masters. Jimmy Walker remains on antibiotic treatment as he seeks to rise from a season that produced just one top-10 finish.
- The PGA Tour has launched a fundraising effort to help offset medical costs as Australian pro Jarrod Lyle undergoes a third bone marrow transplant. “January for Jarrod” now has a page on YouCaring.com where fans can contribute. Lyle first battled leukemia as a teen, then saw a relapse derail a breakout season in 2012. His comeback brought him the tour’s 2015 Courage Award, but he announced last summer the disease again had returned.
PGA TOUR: Sony Open in Hawaii
Site: Waialae CC, Honolulu
- Defending champion: Justin Thomas did a major rewrite of the PGA Tour’s scoring marks, opening with a 59 on the way to a record 27-under-par 253 – one shot better than Tommy Armour III at the 2003 Texas Open. Thomas also put his name alongside the 36- and 54-hole scoring records, finishing seven shots ahead of the chase pack. He joined Ernie Els (2003) as the only men to sweep the Hawaii double.
- Last week: Dustin Johnson blitzed the field of last year’s PGA Tour winners, shooting 66-65 on the weekend for an eight-shot romp at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Johnson not only was the only man to shoot four rounds in the 60s, he improved his score every day after opening with a 69. It marked Johnson’s 17th career victory, and 11 consecutive years with at least one win.
- Tour talk: Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman are among 20 pros taking an island hop from Kapalua to play both ends of the Hawaiian double. … Luke Donald, forced to withdraw before the RSM Classic when he experienced chest pains, is ready to tee it up again. … Since the TofC relocated to Hawaii in 1999, 13 of 19 Sony Open winners have won after playing Kapalua the previous week.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Saturday, 7-10:30 p.m. ET; Sunday, 6-10 p.m.).
- Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; Sony Open primer from Pro Golf Weekly.
EUROPEAN TOUR: BMW South African Open
Site: Glendower GC, Ekurhuleni, South Africa
- Defending champion: Graeme Storm outlasted Rory McIlroy in a playoff, going three extra holes for his first European Tour win in nearly a decade. McIlroy wiped out a three-shot deficit to overtake Storm down the stretch, but a bogey at No.17 sent the duo to a playoff. After exchanging pars, McIlroy’s wayward drive on the third extra hole opened the door.
- Tour talk: Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace head up a strong South African ensemble that also features Hall of Famer Ernie Els, two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen and former Masters champions Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir. … The South African Open is golf’s third-oldest national open, dating back to 1903. That puts it behind the Open Championship (1860) and U.S. Open (1895).
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 7-10 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 6-9:30 a.m.).
EUROPEAN TOUR: EurAsia Cup
Site: Glenmarie G&CC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Defending champion: Europe won the 2016 team event in comprehensive fashion, losing just four matches all weekend on the way to an 18 ½-5 ½ romp in the event’s second edition. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Andy Sullivan each swept their three matches in the event. No Team Asia player managed to produce more than one point. Two years earlier, the inaugural edition ended in a 10-10 draw.
- Tour talk: Race to Dubai titleholder Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson lead a nearly complete makeover of the Europe squad, with only Matthew Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger as holdovers from 2016. … Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and China’s Li Haotong give Team Asia three players in the top 60 of the world rankings.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-2 a.m.).
WEB.COM TOUR: Bahamas Great Exuma Classic
Site: Sandals Emerald Reef GC, Great Exuma, Bahamas
- Defending champion: Kyle Thompson captured his fifth career Web.com Tour victory, battling back from a 6-over-par start in Round 1 to finish 72 holes as the only man under par. A closing 2-under-par 70 was enough to leave him at 2-under 286, two strokes ahead of Andrew Yun and Nicholas Thompson.
- Tour talk: The tournament again is held under an atypical early-week format, teeing off on Saturday and concluding Tuesday. It was a Sunday-Wednesday event in 2017. … This year’s crop of newcomers includes three of last year’s finalists for college golf’s Nicklaus Player of the Year award. Winner Sam Burns (LSU) is joined by Maverick McNealy (Stanford) and Wyndham Clark (Oregon).
- TV: Golf Channel (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Monday, 2-5 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:30-4:30 p.m.).
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Idle
First up: Mitsubishi Electric Championship, Jan. 19-21, Kona, Hawaii
- Tour talk: Nearly a dozen Champions pros are tuning up at this week’s Diamond Resorts Invitational celebrity event in Orlando. John Daly heads the roster, joined by Scott McCarron, Mark Calcavecchia, John Cook and defending champion Woody Austin. … After a year that saw Champions debuts from Steve Stricker, David Toms and José María Olazábal, 2018 lacks similar star power. Chris DiMarco and Dudley Hart top the soon-to-be-50 list, but they won’t join until August.
LPGA TOUR: Idle
First up: Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Jan. 25-28, Paradise Island, Bahamas.
- Tour talk: The day may not be far off when the LPGA joins the PGA Tour for coexisting events at the same site. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told Golf Channel he’s been in talks with LPGA chief Mike Whan about such a scenario, with the winners-only Tournament of Champions a “logical” option but not the only one. … The 2018 LPGA schedule will feature a record combined purse, with $68.75 million to be handed out via its 34 events.