The Starter: Sony OT, Bob Hope, Alcatraz, and Whatnot

Bob Hope Classic

Welcome to the debut edition of The Starter, a new feature scanning pro golf’s landscape to bring weekend results into focus and help set up the week ahead.

Whether crunching numbers or passing along whimsy, there’s enough to glean a few fresh nuggets of insight. First edition suitable for framing (provide your own frame).


1. Rory McIlroy has a heart irregularity, though he assures fans it’s “not that big of a deal.” The four-time major winner has a thickened left ventricle from a virus he caught in 2016 while in China. His troublesome rib is healed, though. The four-time winner makes his 2018 debut this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

2. Patton Kizzire outlasts James Hahn in a six-hole Sony Open playoff to become the PGA Tour’s first multiple winner this season. Alas, it had to share the Hawaiian spotlight with an erroneous missile alert early Saturday and a strike by Golf Channel camera/audio personnel.

3. Europe storms back in Sunday singles to keep possession of the EurAsia Cup from a plucky Asian side. Thomas Bjorn’s side won 8 ½ of a possible 12 singles points in Malaysia – something they might need to draw upon again on French soil come September.


PGA: CareerBuilder Challenge
Course: TPC Stadium Course at PGA West
Where: La Quinta, Calif.
Defending: Hudson Swafford

European: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Course: TPC Stadium Course at PGA West
Where: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Defending: Tommy Fleetwood Bahamas Great Exuma Classic
Course: Sandals Emerald Reef GC
Where: Great Exuma, Bahamas
Defending: Kyle Thompson

Champions: Mitsubishi Electric Championship
Course: Hualalai GC
Where: Kona, Hawaii
Defending: Bernhard Langer


Sunday’s six-hole playoff at the Sony Open was the PGA Tour’s third this decade to go at least that long. John Huh went eight playoff holes to win the 2012 OHL Classic over Robert Allenby; Bryce Molder won the 2011 Open in six extra holes over Briny Baird.


  • 8 Extra – Huh over Allenby (2012 OHL Classic)
  • 6 Extra – Molder over Baird (2011 Open)
  • 6 Extra – Kizzire over Hahn (2018 Sony Open)


Kizzire’s second victory in a 10-week span jumped him into the world’s top 100 for the first time – and nearly into the top 50 that would give him World Golf Championships status. He stands No.54 this week.

Though Brian Harman’s weekend left him frustrated, his share of fourth in Hawaii was enough to rise to a career-best No.20. At the top, though, nothing changed.


1. Dustin Johnson (1st last week) – 11.23
2. Jordan Spieth (2) – 8.92
3. Jon Rahm (3) – 8.69
4. Justin Thomas (4) – 8.27
5. Hideki Matsuyama (5) – 7.74
6. Justin Rose (6) – 7.67
7. Rickie Fowler (7) – 6.86
8. Brooks Koepka (8) – 6.19
9. Henrik Stenson (9) – 5.65
10. Sergio Garcia (10) – 5.45


Though Bob Hope’s name wasn’t on the original Palm Springs Golf Classic, it didn’t take long for the legendary entertainer became its master of ceremonies – and eventually the face of a winter celebrity-fest teeing it up alongside the PGA Tour’s best.

In 1962, Hope teamed with Arnold Palmer to capture the pro-am segment – Palmer doubled as tourney winner – and three years later Hope’s name went on the event. It remained the Bob Hope Desert Classic through the event’s 50th anniversary, before succumbing to the necessities of corporate sponsorship.

Hope’s legacy lives on, though, in the Bob Hope Memorial Trophy that now goes to the tournament champion. In addition, the clubhouse entrance at the TPC Stadium Course has been redesigned as a tribute to Hope’s role in tournament history.


No.17, TPC Stadium Course at PGA West
Par 3, 165 yards
2017 average: 3.129 (6th toughest)

Nicknamed “Alcatraz” after California’s notorious island prison, this island green is the West Coast version of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. As at Sawgrass, too, it’s a Pete Dye creation.

A nearly round green awaits shots from a slightly elevated tee – a seemingly easy task for PGA Tour pros until the intimidation factor kicks in. Adding to the mix is the island is ringed by rocks, guaranteeing a random carom for any shots that find the edge.

Last year, more than two dozen tee shots wound up in the pond around Alcatraz. Then there was Julian Etulain, so unnerved in his opening round that he hooked his tee shot fully left of the water – but safely on dry land. He then rinsed his second shot.

2017 CareerBuilder: No aces, 38 birdies, 154 pars, 20 bogeys, 15 double bogeys, 6 higher


For the second straight year, the Tour is going with untraditional scheduling for its opening fortnight in the Bahamas. The leadoff Bahamas Great Exuma Classic began Saturday and concludes Tuesday, with next week’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic teeing off Sunday.


Two weeks into calendar year 2018, and Gerina Piller’s season is over. Just as she planned.

The two-time U.S. Solheim Cup participant tied for 30th in the pro division of the Diamond Resorts Invitational pro/celebrity event – out of 32 players – and is set to swap golf for motherhood and let PGA Tour husband Martin be the sole breadwinner this year.

Piller is 5 ½ months pregnant with their first child, and already had planned to spend all of 2018 on the mommy track. She was a late addition into the DRI, after Paula Creamer withdrew amid continuing wrist woes.

“When they tell me to stay home and not fly anymore,” said Piller, who will join Martin on his travels for a time, “then I’ll just be a mom and enjoy that special time and be ready to come back in 2019.”


“You’ve got to have those relationships so there’s a trust and a belief in each other. I have the complete faith in all these 12, and another 20, 25 European players around the world who are trying to get into that Ryder Cup team.”
– Thomas Bjorn, Europe’s captain, on comeback in the EurAsia Cup

Credits: Getty Images


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