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Who said early-season golf was dull? After the humdinger that was last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions duel between Cam Smith and Jon Rahm, the Sony Open gave us a reminder that, in 2022, golf rivalries can extend far beyond the confines of the course.
And that’s not to take anything away from the skills on display at Hawaii’s Waialae Country Club, which welcomed the first full PGA Tour field of the year. It also saw a five-shot lead wiped out with just nine holes to play, as well as one of the greatest fairway-wood shots in the game’s history. Yes, it was that good!
It’s safe to say the Aloha State has delivered, and here, we round up the biggest talking points from the 2022 Sony Open…
1. Putting trumps all yet again
What better place to start than the tournament winner. Even in the appropriate time zone, viewers would’ve been forgiven for tuning out as the final group of Russell Henley and Hideki Matsuyama reached the turn. Henley stood on the 10th tee five ahead having looked imperious throughout a front-nine 29, but this is a very different Matsuyama to the one of 12 months ago, to the one that hadn’t won in nearly four years ahead of last year’s Masters.
And it was the Japanese star’s proficiency with the flat stick that led him to the unlikely victory. The reigning Masters champ turned in the best putting performance of his career to gain a whopping 7.27 strokes over the four days, topping the Strokes Gained: Putting rankings in a full-field PGA Tour event for the first time. Drive for show…
2. The ugly side of golf
While players battled for the Sony Open title, two of the game’s more controversial and vocal combatants came to blows on Twitter. What started off as a fairly inconspicuous comment from American broadcaster Chantel McCabe quickly turned into one of the most random Twitter feuds you’re likely to see.
Watching Friday’s golf, McCabe tweeted: “Kevin Na walking in putts does not get old”. Then, unprompted, Grayson Murray responded in bizarre fashion, quote-tweeting the original post with a caption that read: “Kevin Na taking 3 minutes to putt them does get old”. It got worse and other pros even chimed in.
Check out the exchange below:
Kevin Na taking 3 minutes to putt them. does get old. https://t.co/kzcJ8GtQjrJanuary 14, 2022
Murray, 28, has shown in the past he isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers, having faced criticism for previous remarks made on social media. He’s not teed it up since the 3M Open in July last year so perhaps he’s just suffering from extreme boredom.
3. Kisner gets salty about Ryder Cup snubs
Having seen his best chances of playing in the Ryder Cup likely come and go, matchplay maestro Kevin Kisner decided it was time to reveal his thoughts on the selection process, calling it “too political”. ‘The Kiz’ lost in the final of the 2018 WGC Match Play before going one better the following year. He also featured in the Presidents Cup in 2017, winning three points from four and going undefeated. Despite that, he has been overlooked for every Ryder Cup team he’s had a chance of being picked for.
“They don’t like me, I guess,” Kisner said on GOLF’s Subpar podcast, before adding: “I don’t give a s**t”. Sure ya don’t, Kev.
4. Furyk rolls back the years
Now plying his trade mainly on the Champions Tour, most would’ve been surprised to see the name of Jim Furyk atop the leaderboard on Thursday. The 51-year-old last featured on the main tour back in April 2021 at the RBC Heritage but rolled back the years in Hawaii to set the early pace. Despite losing more than a stroke off the tee against the field, the 2003 US Open champion produced his best putting round since 2009, gaining 4.85 strokes on the greens to post an eight-under 62. He also made an ace at the penultimate hole… as you do!
What a stunning hole-in-one at the par-three 17th during the opening round of the PGA Tour's Sony Open from Jim Furyk ️⛳️👏 pic.twitter.com/XQIoOMzqdTJanuary 17, 2022
5. Shot of the year wrapped up?
Just as it started, it seems fitting to end with the Sony Open champion. And more specifically, the outrageous shot that essentially ended the tournament. Sizing up his 277-yard second into Waialae Country Club’s closing par-5, Matsuyama produced a 3-wood from the gods that nestled all of three feet from the hole. It was truly one of the greatest fairway-wood shots you’re ever likely to see, so if you haven’t yet had the chance, do yourself a favour and check it out below:
UNREAL SHOT. 😳 Hideki delivers a beauty from 277 yards out on the first playoff hole! pic.twitter.com/qT8ByiAVrmJanuary 17, 2022
If that doesn't win shot of the year, then we're in for a treat in 2022. As an aside, Matsuyama became the first player to win a PGA Tour play-off with an eagle since JJ Henry at the 2015 Barracuda Championship.
You can never have too much Hideki, so here’s some more. With his final-round 63, Matsuyama extended his run of consecutive rounds in the 60s to 13, the current longest streak on the PGA Tour. He is just six short of the all-time record, which is held by Viktor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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