After Tiger Woods hosted 20 players in the Bahamas last week, it is time for another game of hit and giggle without official PGA Tour status in Florida.
Greg Norman has been the longstanding host of this event and is still involved this year despite his partnership with the Asian Tour as the CEO of the Saudi bankrolled LIV Golf Investments. The relationship between Norman and the Tour arguably one of the more interesting elements of this week’s three rounds.
Playing in pairs, the teams compete in a Scramble format on Friday, Modified Alternate Shot Saturday, before the tournament is decided with Four-Ball play on Sunday.
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: American pairing Harris English and Matt Kuchar claimed this event for the third time in 2020, setting a tournament scoring record in the process.
The pair return this week to attempt a fourth title having won by a whopping nine strokes from Rory Sabbatine and Kevin Tway last year.
RIGHT: Marc Leishman and Jason Day will pair up this week and fly the Aussie flag alongside Matt Jones, who will play with Ryan Palmer. PHOTO: Rob Carr/Getty Images.
COURSE: The Norman designed Tiburon Golf Club welcomes what was once known as the Shark Shootout as has been the case since 2001.
Also the host venue for the LPGA Tour’s CME Group Tour Championship finale, most recently won by Jin Young Ko, the par-72 measures a tick over 7,300 yards with water, expansive bunkering and waste areas the primary features.
Housing two layouts, Tiburon’s Gold Course will take centre stage this week with plenty of birdies expected across the various formats during the week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although multiple players have claimed this event three times, no pairing had done so until Harris English and Matt Kuchar did just that in 2020 and they are understandably among the favourites this week.
However, Kuchar slid down the world rankings this year and now finds himself at No.100 but has managed some consistent results in the latter part of the year, while English has tapered off a little since winning twice in the first 26 weeks of the year.
Last playing in 2019 alongside Sean O’Hair and finishing in last place, Lexi Thompson pairs up with Bubba Watson this year and is worth keeping an eye on here.
Thompson finished the LPGA Tour season strongly, including finishing 8th at this venue in the season finale, however, was winless in 2021. Her course knowledge at what is a home game this week perhaps a help towards improving upon her 2019 result.
Watson meanwhile has been extremely inconsistent this year but shown significant off course growth and will relish the format and a partner in Thompson that will similarly look to bomb it off the tee and play aggressively.
The only all Aussie pair in the field this year, Jason Day and Marc Leishman, will be interesting to watch perhaps more with a view towards 2022 for both players.
Day won this event in 2014 alongside American Cameron Tringale, while Leishman appeared to enjoy the format on the way to an eighth place with Cam Smith last year.
As he continues to manage his body and swing changes, Day missed eight cuts from 18 starts this year and now resides outside the top-100 on the world rankings having previously held the top spot for 51 weeks.
A patchy start to the season for Victorian Leishman was remedied by the start of the new PGA Tour season where he opened his account with back-to-back top-5 finishes.
Leishman has been long being heralded as a future major winner and will want to fulfil that promise sooner rather than later. For his part, Day appears determined to scale his way back to the top and a good week here would certainly make Christmas dinner taste a little nicer and have him looking forward to 2022.
54-HOLE RECORD: 179 (-37, Matt Kuchar/Harris English, 2020)
18-HOLE RECORD: 55 (Ryan Palmer/Harold Varner III 2019), (Jason Day/Cameron Tringale 2014), (Greg Norman/Steve Elkington 2005), (Peter Jacobsen/John Cook 1998), (Greg Norman/Nick Price 1993)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Jason Day (2014), Rod Pampling (2006), Steve Elkington (1998, 1995 & 1993), Greg Norman (1998)
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Marc Leishman/Jason Day, Matt Jones (partnered with Ryan Palmer).
Round 1: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 4am – 8am)
Round 2: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 5am – 9am)
Round 3: Monday (Fox Sports 503 4am – 8am)
*AEDT, check local guides