Maybe it’s being comfortable on Poa annua greens. Or maybe it’s just being close to home and feeding off the support of hometown fans. But it’s evident that native Californians thrive in their home state.
Consider this: In the last three seasons, the players with the best cumulative score to par in California events on the PGA Tour are Maverick McNealy and Patrick Cantlay. Each is a cumulative 99 under after the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
McNealy grew up in Northern California and attended Stanford University. Cantlay grew up in Southern California and attended UCLA. Although McNealy is still looking for his first Tour win, Cantlay has six – including the 2020 Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club. And, of course, he’s the defending FedExCup champion.
There's just one tournament left in the West Coast swing in February as of writing - the Genesis Invitational. Both players will be pushing hard on courses they love.
“I love California golf, and this is the epitome of California golf,” Cantlay said in the build-up to the event at Pebble Beach. “So I think it’s great and I definitely feel at home. … Whenever I’m on Poa annua greens at a course like Pebble Beach, it feels like I’ve played courses like that my whole life.”
Four of McNealy’s six top-10 finishes on Tour have come in the Golden State, including a runner-up at Pebble Beach last year to Floridian Daniel Berger. Even more to the point – those four top-10s have come in 18 starts in California; the other two top-10s have come in 56 starts in non-California events.
In addition, McNealy’s greens in regulation percentage is four points higher in California than his overall average.
Of course, there are other non-Californians who seem to thrive on the West Coast, including Spain’s Jon Rahm and Australia’s Jason Day, who were both in contention at Torrey Pines. Rahm is a collective 98 under in California the past three seasons; Day has 11 top-5 finishes in 23 career starts in the Golden State since 2014, the most of any player during that span, according to Ray.
But generally, it’s a Cali thing – which was reinforced in the opening event of this season when Max Homa (a Burbank, California native) won the Fortinet Championship in Napa at Silverado. Homa, by the way, is a collective 84 under in the last three seasons in California.
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Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TSR4
3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL
Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
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