10 Notes to Know: January 13, 2020

January 13, 2020
Justin Ray
  1. Cameron Smith defeated Brendan Steele on the first playoff hole of the Sony Open to claim his second career PGA Tour title. Smith became the third Aussie to win the Sony Open, joining Brett Ogle in 1994 and Bruce Crampton in 1969.
  1. Since the Tournament of Champions moved to Maui in 1999, this was the first time that both Hawaii events ended with a playoff. Justin Thomas won at Kapalua in a playoff last week, beating Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed.
  1. Brendan Steele led by three entering the final round but struggled with approach shots (53rd in strokes gained approach) and putts (66th in strokes gained putting) on Sunday. Steele is the first player to lose a 54-hole lead of three or more at the Sony Open since Wayne Levi did it in 1984 – Levi led by three entering the final round, but Jack Renner beat him in a playoff that day.
  1. Charles Howell III finished T-12, earning $116K and coming closer to a career milestone. Howell is now less than $40,000 away from earning $1M for the 20th consecutive PGA Tour season. CH3 he would be just the second player in PGA Tour history to do that, joining Phil Mickelson.
  1. The PGA Tour shifts to mainland U.S. next for the newly-named American Express (formerly known as the Desert Classic). Last year, Phil Mickelson held a two-shot lead entering the final round, but Adam Long birdied the 72nd hole to win by 1 stroke.
  1. Branden Grace fired a brilliant final round 62 to win the South African Open by three shots over defending champion Louis Oosthuizen. Grace put on a putting clinic in the final round, gaining 7.24 strokes on the field on the greens Sunday, 2.69 more than any other player in the field. Branden had a field-low 22 putts in the final round, nine fewer than he needed the previous day.
  1. Grace now has nine European Tour victories since the beginning of 2012. During that span, only Rory McIlroy (11 wins) has more.
  1. Expanding that thought, it was Branden’s 10th win between the European and PGA Tours since the beginning of 2012 (he has one career victory on the PGA Tour). The players with double-digit wins between those two Tours since the beginning of 2012 are McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and now, Grace.
  1. Each of the next three events on the European Tour schedule take place on the Arabian Peninsula, including next week’s Abu Dhabi Championship. Among players with at least 20 rounds played in that region all-time on the European Tour, Rory McIlroy (68.9), Greg Norman (69.3) and Tiger Woods (69.3) have the best career scoring averages.
  1. Brooks Koepka is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in Abu Dhabi. Koepka finished both 2018 and 2019 ranked number one in the world, becoming the first player to do that in consecutive years since Tiger in 2008 and 2009.