PREVIEW: Five Australians tee up at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii

The PGA Tour returns in 2022 once again at the Tournament of Champions, and five Australians have earned the right to play.

There is very little on the PGA Tour. A three-week break over Christmas is as long as it gets before the tour jumps back into gear in Hawaii starting with the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui.

The Tournament of Champions has kick-started every year since 1986 and has included some big-name winners including Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Jordan Spieth and Vijay Singh.

For some time Australia looked to have a stronghold on the trophy every year with Stuart Appleby winning on three consecutive occasions from 2004-06, while Geoff Ogilvy won twice in two years in 2009-10.

In more recent times, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson have twice raised the trophy and American Harris English won last year after beating Joaquin Neimann in a playoff.

But not just anybody gets to play in the no-cut Tournament of Champions. To earn your place in the field, you must have won on the PGA Tour the following year. In 2022, 39 players have achieved that feat and will make their way to Kapalua.

And this week, Team Australia is well represented.

Cameron Davis makes his first appearance at the Tournament of Champions after winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in early July. The 26-year old Sydneysider included some heroic long-irons, and an epic bunker shott for eagle to outlast Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann over five extra holes and claim his maiden PGA Tour trophy.

“Rocket Mortgage (Classic win) was a culmination of the opportunities to win and finally having it going the right way,” Davis said this week. “It was such a fun week. It’s going to always live with me, getting the first one.”

After a rough finish to 2021, Davis will be keen to bounce back on the long, wide fairways of Kapalua that should suit his game.

“I got to Maui a few days early to get some work done. Trying to get some rust off, but it’s a few days before the tournament starts. It’s trending.”

Matt Jones will be hoping the wind gets up in Maui as he stormed home to victory at the blustery Honda Classic last March. Jones has struggled with his game since the win recording just one top-20 finish at the ZOZO Championship. However, Jones will be buoyed by a solid 11th place finish at his only previous appearance at the Tournament of Champions in 2015.

Lucas Herbert will be paired with Jones for the opening two rounds and has had an exciting few years currently sitting inside the world’s top-50 ranked male golfers.

Two victories on the world’s two biggest golf tours in 2022 has Herbert arriving in Hawaii confident of making his mark. Herbert won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the same weekend Davis won in the US. but it was his maiden PGA Tour victory in Bermuda that sees his teeing it up this week.

Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith are Australia’s highest-ranked golfers at the moment but neither secured themselves an individual trophy during 2021. Their spot in the field comes via the spectacular playoff victory at the Zurich Classic that saw the Aussie duo beat the South African pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel at the first extra hole.

Leishman and Smith have also been paired together for the opening two rounds and if form is anything to go by, Smith is the Australian in the field to keep an eye on.

The mulleted Queenslander had chalked up five top-20 finishes in his last seven events in 2021 including a second-place finish at the Northern Trust and a fourth placing at the RSM Classic.

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