The final points-paying event of the 2017 portion of the 2017-’18 PGA Tour schedule is in the books — and for the fourth time in five weeks, we’ve got ourselves a first time winner.
Despite a hard Sunday charge by J.J. Spaun, Tour rookie Austin Cook stayed poised and finished three shots clear of the field en route to his maiden victory.
Austin Cook entered Sunday with the lead and never looked back. Cook shot his worst round of the week (67) but it was still enough for a three shot win. Cook wasn’t the longest shot, but at 60/1, he wasn’t on many people’s radar. Obviously, those who took the risk or guessed blindly had some success last week.
While Cook was putting the hammer down, there were plenty of players out there who would have much rather been getting hammered at the bar. On the course, they looked like their minds were elsewhere and that their games had deserted them.
Alright — so that may be a touch of an exaggeration. But to say the likes of Si Woo Kim, Patrick Rodgers, Ernie Els and others had a good time in Sea Island would be a bold faced lie. God forbid you were one of those unwise enough to give them a starting nod. Eysh….
Here’s a look at those who are sad to see the holiday break arrive and some for whom it’s coming a week to late:
Austin Cook — For the third week in a row, the PGA Tour has produced a first time winner. This time, it was Austin Cook who hoisted the trophy in triumph. Just two years ago, Cook was known for his propensity to Monday qualify into events. Today, he’s a winner with a Masters invite coming in the next couple months and a two year exemption on Tour. Cook, who played well all week — including a Friday 62 — closed out his four-stroke victory with birdies on his last three holes. While his stellar performance didn’t help many of us last week, he did enough to put the discerning fantasy player on notice.
J.J. Spaun — Twenty-Seven year-old Tour rookie J.J. Spaun has quietly been the best story on Tour the last handful of weeks. He finished T-10 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (after leading during the final round) and then backed that up with a T-14 at the OHL Mayakoba Classic. Spaun then went on a tear at the RSM last week, finishing alone in second on the strength of four rounds of 67 or better. It’s yet to be seen what kind of player Spaun is — is he prone to streaks or is her consistently reliable — so I’d be cautious in the coming weeks. One thing is for sure, he’s a name to know in 2018 for those looking to make money playing fantasy golf.
Matt Kuchar — I have a lot invested in Matt Kuchar — both literally and figuratively. In the past, I’ve bet bundles of money on Kuchar to perform only to have him fall just shy of the mark. Then, when I don’t be on him, he aww-shuckses his way into the winner circle and onto my shit list. You can guess where my dollars went last week. He’s had plenty of time to get over the loss to Jordan Spieth at the Open Championship, but he’s yet to really put anything together since. I’m not only pulling for him to win the Masters in April, I’ve already bet on it — but right now I feel dumber than a pageant queen on a date with Elon Musk.
Si Woo Kim — I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Si Woo Kim. Yes, the young Korean star is uber talented and a proven winner on the Tour. But good Lord is he streaky. I mean, he’s beginning to make Billy Horschel look like the model of consistency. Kim has played pretty well during the the later portion of 2017, but all that momentum went up in smoke at Sea Island where he missed the cut. It wouldn’t have been so bad from a fantasy standpoint had he not been trending in the right direction. Many a fantasy ship were dragged under last week by his anchor-like performance. I wouldn’t give up on Kim — but saying to “be weary” is an understatement.
Ernie Els — Besides maybe David Duval, there’s no player I’d rather see have a resurgence than Ernie Els. Guy is too good (er, was) to keep watching him go down in flames week after week. He’s five years removed from his second Open Championship triumph (and last win) so Els is certainly not in what you’d call the prime of his career — but his performance in recent years has just been down-right sad. Few guys are more likeable than the Big Easy and at this point, I’d almost rather he retire. From a fantasy standpoint, the name recognition needs to be put away on the top shelf of some dark closet far, far into the recesses of your mind. He’s kryptonite.