It’s a new year and one thing’s clear – Canadians on the PGA Tour are going to follow up on some serious momentum from 2020.
This week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two Canadians will be in the field – Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor – and it’s the first time since 2008 that more than one Canadian has made the trip to Kapalua.
It was easy to forget with everything that happened afterwards, but Taylor, a longtime TaylorMade staffer, captured the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, after battling Phil Mickelson down the stretch on Sunday.
His victory guaranteed him a spot at the winners-only event to kick start the year.
“It feels amazing. Again, I don't think it's going to sink in for quite some time. I don't know if I blocked out the last five hours and just played golf, and you know, now I'm here with winning with a trophy, it's amazing,” said Taylor after his victory.
Nick Taylor, Canadian PGA Tour Player
Taylor’s win was his second on the PGA Tour, after the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship. This year will mark Taylor’s second appearance at the Tournament of Champions. Taylor struggled after the COVID-19 break last summer, but managed to end the year on a high note. He made the cut at the Masters – his first-ever appearance at Augusta National – and finished T29, his best result on the PGA Tour since his victory at Pebble Beach.
Taylor finished T29 at the Tournament of Champions in 2015 when he made his only other start.
Hughes, meanwhile, is also making his second appearance at the Tournament of Champions and first since 2017 (he won the 2016 RSM Classic). And Hughes, who has only the one PGA Tour victory to his credit, earned a spot at Kapalua via an unconventional way.
Mackenzie Hughes, Canadian PGA Tour Player
With so many tournaments cancelled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PGA Tour made a one-time adjustment to have all those who got to the Tour Championship become eligible for Kapalua. So Hughes, despite not winning on Tour since 2016, will be in Hawaii as well.
In all there are 45 golfers teeing it up this week in paradise, with three golfers who are eligible deciding to take a pass (new-dad Rory McIlroy being one of them). Forty-two participants marks the highest number in the tournament’s history.
Hughes, who has played Ping clubs his whole career, nailed a slippery par-saver at the BMW Championship to earn one of the final spots in the Tour Championship last fall. With that, he also got into the Masters and a handful of other big-time tournaments, including the Tournament of Champions.
At 49th in the world, Hughes is Canada’s top-ranked male golfer. He had one of the finest stretches of anyone on the PGA Tour after the COVID-19 break, including five top-15 finishes. Now he’s looking to continue that momentum into 2021 starting in Hawaii.
“I started to get on rolls and get momentum going and confidence built up. From there I just started playing golf and not thinking about too many things,” Hughes told Sportsnet.ca in December of his hot streak.
While Hughes and Taylor get there years started at the limited-field event, it won’t be long until the rest of the Canadian PGA Tour contingent joins them.
Corey Conners, another Ping staffer like Hughes, and Adam Hadwin, a longtime Callaway Tour staff member, frequently tee it up alongside Hughes and Taylor and the foursome have a usual West Coast vs. East Coast practice-round match. Roger Sloan, Michael Gligic, David Hearn, and Graham DeLaet have limited, but decent, Tour status as well.
Ben Silverman, Adam Svensson, and Taylor Pendrith will begin the Korn Ferry Tour season in February. Pendrith is second on that Tour’s Points List and has essentially guaranteed himself a spot on the PGA Tour starting this fall.
Mike Weir will look to continue his successful run on the PGA Tour Champions starting later this month.
Mike Weir, Canadian PGA Tour Player
The big thing for the guys on the PGA Tour to be shooting for – and for Canadian golf fans to keep their eye on this spring – is the race for the Olympics.
While questions still remain about whether or not the Tokyo games will go ahead as planned, much has changed from January 2020 to January 2021 in terms of who is leading the way for the Canadian men.
The Olympic qualifiers go off of the world ranking, and for now its Hughes and Conners as the top two. The Olympics are scheduled for August in Japan.
So while Canadian golfers have a little time before they can tee it up again in 2021, they’ve got some great names to cheer for starting this week in Hawaii.
Written and intended to the GlobalGolf.ca audience by Adam Stanley