10 Best PGA Tour Events to Watch
There are a nearly incalculable number of televised golf events broadcast each year. At least it can seem that way. 46 tournaments make up the PGA Tour schedule for the 2018/19 season, but even the most dedicated of fans would struggle to consume all of that. Indeed, many of the weeks struggle to be distinctive, as similar courses and setups can make it feel like you’re repeatedly watching the same thing on a loop.
However, there are certain events that do stand out from the crowd, for a variety of reasons. We each have our favourites – the annual stops that are unmissable. What are the ones you always try to see? Excluding the Majors and World Golf Championships, Golfshake’s Kieran Clark has picked out ten tournaments from the game’s most lucrative tour that he always looks forward to.
Tournament of Champions & Sony Open in Hawaii
I’m combining these two in a pair as they come as a package. The ‘Hawaii Swing’ on the PGA Tour has always added a touch of light to those dark winter evenings living in Scotland, and being the habitual night owl that I am, the prospect of live golf beyond the midnight hour has long possessed an allure.
The Tournament of Champions is the traditional curtain raiser just after the New Year, and Kapalua is a feast for the eyes with its spectacular vistas and expansive, undulating fairways. Waialae Country Club is home to the Sony and boasts a shorter layout that asks different questions of the players, something aided by the frequent winds of Hawaii that consistently add further intrigue. These perhaps wouldn't be part of many lists, but I'm always drawn by the sight of Golf Channel commentators wearing a Lei.
Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines
Tiger Woods has traditionally begun his season in San Diego at Torrey Pines, winning the event seven times between 1999 and 2013, ensuring its iconic place within the modern history of the PGA Tour. Played across two courses – North and South – the latter known for hosting the 2008 U.S. Open - famously won by Woods - the coastline of La Jolla provides a scenic backdrop to what is generally a strong field on a public venue that does exude a sense of grandeur.
In many respects, for the game’s best players, the year truly begins here, and rekindles interest following the winter break.
Los Angeles Open/Genesis Open
Riviera Country Club has been the long-serving host of the Los Angeles Open, and it is unquestionably among the most iconic courses and venues that we see each year. Sat in Santa Monica Canyon near Sunset Boulevard, there is a feel of old Hollywood to the place, the ghosts of Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin and Gregory Peck hanging over the property, and is known for being the site of the legendary Ben Hogan’s 1948 U.S. Open victory, not to mention several L.A. Opens for the Texan. Arnold Palmer, Bubba Watson, Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson are other multiple winners of this event.
Loved by golf architecture aficionados, Riviera is a delight to see and sits prominently as a highlight on the PGA Tour calendar. If you love a classic golf course with history as much as I do, then the Los Angeles Open is a must-watch.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
For years it was an annual event; Tiger Woods winning at Bay Hill and being congratulated walking off the 18th green by Arnold Palmer. Many iconic scenes to reflect upon. Sadly, those days have now passed, but this is a tournament that became synonymous with two of golf’s most transcendent figures, and that legacy is celebrated each spring. It remains a draw for the top players, Rory McIlroy’s victory in 2018 was thrilling, and we can only hope that continues into the future.
The Players Championship
It would be remiss not to include The Players Championship, now restored to its former March date. This is the most prestigious tournament on the biggest tour in the game, and if professional golf was to be rebooted by someone completely objective, then it would likely be considered a major championship. But on those impartial terms, I’m not sure a limited invitational run by an exclusive club in Augusta, Georgia, would retain that exulted status. History does matter in this sport.
What it may lack in heritage, The Players ticks every other box. Its field is arguably the deepest from top-to-bottom of the year, and TPC Sawgrass – though not everyone’s favourite course – is an iconic venue with a finishing stretch of holes that consistently provides dramatic moments. There is no doubt that the PGA Tour’s flagship event is a distinct and important part of each year, but you do wonder if the schedule change may see it slip behind the prelude to the Masters.
Speaking of that first major championship of the year, the Heritage has long been established as the next event on the calendar, but this is no After the Lord Mayor's Show. The Harbour Town Golf Links – designed by Pete Dye alongside Jack Nicklaus – is a perennial favourite with the players and viewers. South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island is a picturesque come-down from the intensity of Augusta, and does feel separate from other regular tournaments, even those with stronger fields. I've always enjoyed watching this event as we settle down after the Masters, as the golf season really kicks off for those of us in the UK once April comes round.
Although I’m less convinced by that garish plaid jacket given to the winner.
Fort Worth Invitational
As you can likely tell, I’m partial to events with a sense of history played on classic golf courses. The Fort Worth Invitational may be the finest example on the PGA Tour. Dating back to 1946, Ben Hogan won his hometown event five times at Colonial Country Club, a layout oozing with tradition and with the subtleties of the era in which it was imagined.
The triumphs of Hogan and other winners – including Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose – are commemorated by the Wall of Champions on the first tee, merely adding to the feeling that this is an event with an evolving story. Personally, the Colonial generally falls on the week of my birthday, so it stands out for that reason as I gaze back on making it through another year with the golf on the tele.
The Memorial Tournament
Certain PGA Tour events feel elevated, and the Memorial is one of them. Hosted by the great Jack Nicklaus at the golf course he designed, Muirfield Village, that association naturally contributes significant prestige. Receiving the congratulatory handshake from the 18-time major champion must be an indescribable moment for the winner, reminiscent of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Byron Nelson Classic in years gone by.
The venue itself is spectacular. Honed and refined through decades, Muirfield Village has the grandness of a major championship layout – and it has hosted both the Solheim Cup and Presidents Cup. Having champions like Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Hale Irwin and Raymond Floyd only adds to the sense of this being a special tournament. For me, the Memorial is right up there alongside the Players in terms of its place in the game.
When it comes to history, the Canadian Open in unsurpassed on the PGA Tour. Dating back all the way to 1904, this is a proud tournament with a rich heritage, and one that I always make an effort to follow. Many of the greats have secured the title - from Walter Hagen and Sam Snead, to Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods - and there is something welcome about seeing a rare week on the calendar removed from U.S. soil. One day there will be another home winner, as it has now been 65 years since Pat Fletcher gave the Canadian spectators something to cheer.
What is your favourite event to watch on the PGA Tour? Do you agree with Kieran's selections, or are you a fan of the manic Phoenix Open or the breakthtaking scenery of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Maybe you enjoy the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake for the Tour Championship. Let us know!
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