Opinion – by Evin Priest
Planning an overseas trip next year and want to tie in a US PGA Tour event into your itinerary?
Fantastic idea. Depending on where you live in Australia, world-class PGA Tour fields can be a nine-hour plane trip away – and in idyllic locations you would visit regardless.
I’ve assembled a list of the top-five PGA Tour events – in order – based on a number of categories, but most importantly proximity to Australia and tournament city appeal.
- Tournament of Champions – Maui, Hawaii (JAN 3 – 6, 2019)
Ironically, one of the best PGA Tour events on the schedule is closer to Australia than it is for most of the east coast-based American tour pros who compete in it. Everything about this 30-man event makes it the most rewarding PGA Tour tournament for an Australian to watch.
For starters, getting there is easy – the nine-hour flight from Sydney to Honolulu has never been cheaper thanks to a price war between some of the major airlines and the island-hopper flight to Maui is less than 40 minutes.
The location is paradise. Unlike the tourist trap that is Waikiki, Maui has a far more relaxed, authentic island vibe. While the tournament is played at Kapalua resort’s Plantation course, the Bay course is minutes away and has plenty of tee times during tournament week – plus its ocean views are just as spectacular as Plantation’s. The seafood on the island of Maui is otherworldly, and be sure to visit Sansei restaurant for some truly memorable, Hawaii-inspired Japanese sushi.
Finally, the tournament. Given the only invitation for a player is to win a PGA Tour event the previous year, you are guaranteed to watch in-form players and big-name stars. The Tournament of Champions has a low-key, working-holiday vibe and with small crowds the access to your favourite players is formidable. The views from the course across Honolua Bay and the Molokai mountains are unforgettable.
Oh, and since 1992, Australians have won seven titles at Kapalua, including a three-peat from Stuart Appleby and a title defence by Geoff Ogilvy, so you’re a good chance to see an Aussie lift the trophy!
2. Genesis Open – Los Angeles, California (JAN 24 – 27, 2019)
There are a number of reasons the Genesis Open is a must for Aussie golf fans, none more pertinent than the fact iconic host Riviera Country Club is easily the best course on the PGA Tour outside the majors. So many timeless holes you need to see in person, such as the par-3 sixth with the bunker in the middle of the green, the driveable par-4 10th and the majestic 18th with the clubhouse in the background.
With LA just a tick over 12 hours in the air from Sydney, Riviera CC is ideally located in Pacific Palisades – a beautiful coastal pocket of the city well away from the smog of downtown and only minutes from Santa Monica.
Every year, the Tiger Woods Foundation-hosted event attracts an elite field. And, like Kapalua, Australia has a rich history of winners at Riviera – including Aaron Baddeley, Adam Scott and Robert Allenby, while Steve Elkington won the 1995 US PGA Championship there.
3. The CIMB Classic (OCT 11 – 14, 2018)
The CIMB Classic is held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – so the 8.5-hour flight from Sydney qualifies for our ‘close to Australia’ category. Recently renamed ‘TPC Kuala Lumpur’, the course is a beautiful, resort-style layout and is only 15 minutes’ drive from downtown KL. With the 78-man event filled by the 60 from the FedEx Cup standings, top 10 from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit and eight sponsor exemptions, you’re guaranteed a quality field with a typically healthy Australian contingent to watch.
4. Pebble Beach Pro Am – Monterey, California (FEB 7 – 10, 2019)
The Pebble Beach Pro Am needs no introduction. As one of the split-venue events on tour, not only do you get to watch the world’s best play one of golf’s true masterpieces, but over the first three rounds you also get to check out the action at Spyglass Hill and the wonderful Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Given you’re on the Monterey Peninsula – one of the finest golf regions in the world – there are plenty of courses to get a game on the side. It’s also one of the few tournaments where the golfers aren’t the star of the show – despite world-class fields every year including Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, they’re dwarfed in celebrity status by NFL players like Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald or movie stars like Bill Murray and Clint Eastwood.
It is an ideal mix of holidaying and tournament golf and San Francisco airport is but a direct, 12-hour flight from Sydney. Pro tip? With the Genesis Open played the following week, hire a car and make the drive down the gorgeous Californian coast line to LA. The 2019 US Open will also be held at Pebble Beach from June 13 – 16, so that is also an option.
5. Farmers Insurance Open – Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, California (FEB 14 – 17, 2019)
With regular visitors including two-time winner Jason Day, eight-time winner Tiger Woods (seven Famers Insurance titles and the 2008 US Open), Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler to name a few, the field alone is worth the flight to LA and the 90-minute drive south to La Jolla. The views are absolutely magnificent and you’ll find yourself constantly retracing the steps of Tiger’s famous 2008 US Open triumph on the South course. The seaside suburbs surrounding Torrey Pines are peaceful, and reminiscent of Australia with clifftop views and main streets littered with restaurants and cafe.