IF you blinked you may have missed the PGA Tour’s two-week off-season as eight Australians help kick off the 2017 schedule on Thursday at the Safeway Open in California.
The cancellation of last week’s Web.com Tour finale means many in the field were afforded a longer break away from the game but there is no letting up at the top level.
Many of the world’s best won’t return to the PGA Tour at Silverado Resort and Spa, giving the Australian eight an excellent opportunity to pick up early FedEx Cup points.
New South Welshman Brett Drewitt makes his debut on the PGA Tour after a big outing in the third - and ultimately final - Web.com Tour Finals event catapulted him into the top 25 on the money list.
That T5 result lifted Drewitt to 16th on those standings, enough to book his spot on the world’s top Tour for the upcoming season.
Queenslanders Cameron Smith and Rod Pampling also cemented return trips to the PGA Tour through the Finals and will tee it up this week.
Smith will kick off his second year on the PGA Tour after a turbulent rookie season in 2016 that yielded just three top 25 finishes in 24 starts.
By virtue of qualifying for the 2016 FedEx Cup Playoffs, veteran John Senden will also join this week’s field as the preparations begin for the defence of his 2006 Australian Open crown at Royal Sydney next month.
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Also looking to get a head start on their PGA Tour rivals early in the season are 2016 Tour winners Aaron Baddeley and Greg Chalmers.
The journeymen bagged wins at the Barbasol and Barracuda Championships respectively this year and will tour the US in 2017 with the security of guaranteed starts most weeks.
Countryman Steven Bowditch continues the search for his best golf on the West Coast this week, after a disappointing missed cut at the Fiji International last week and an atrocious 2016 season.
The Queenslander’s exemption for winning the 2015 Byron Nelson Championship will run out in 12 months, hopefully enough time for the big-hitter to reverse his disastrous late-season form.
The 33-year-old failed to break 70 in his final 22 rounds of the PGA Tour season, a stretch that spanned nine events.
Also looking forward to a fresh start is 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.
The Victorian missed the 2016 Playoffs and makes his first start anywhere in the world since the season-ending Wyndham Championship.
In a sign of good things to come, Ogilvy did finish the year with three top 25s in his final four events on the PGA Tour.
History says a win this week sets a player up for a strong season, with the last 11 players to nab the season-opener going on to qualify for the PGA Tour’s big finale, the Tour Championship.
Argentine Emiliano Grillo will be hoping to defend his 2015 crown - which came just a week after claiming the Web.com Tour’s Tour Championship - but he’ll face some stiff competition.
Beloved American Phil Mickelson steps out this week for the first time as tournament host in his native state, while Tour winners Kevin Na, Matt Kuchar, Justin Thomas and Danny Lee all make the trip to Napa.
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