Hudson Swafford found his groove on the back nine Sunday on the PGA West Stadium Course. He made five birdies and an eagle to win The American Express in La Quinta, CA.
The 34-year-old three-time All-American at the University of Georgia won for the third time on the PGA Tour. And this is his second win in The American Express event.
Swafford came from three shots back to overtake PGA Tour rookie Lee Hodges. He captured the opening event of the California Swing and top prize of $1,368,000. Swafford’s brilliant final round of 8-under 64 left him 23-under par and enough for a 2-shot victory over Tom Hoge.
Overcoming the odds
Swafford travels on tour from his home in Sea Island, GA. He was one of many big longshots to make a run at The American Express title on Sunday.
Both Swafford and runner-up Tom Hoge had odds of +15000 or 150/1 to win at many leading online sportsbooks. Major sports books like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM aren’t available in GA yet. But residents in the Peach State can hope to vote on sports betting legislation this coming November.
Other sportsbooks in Las Vegas offered Swafford’s odds to win The American Express at +22500.
Swafford overcame the long odds on the golf course. Albeit while he dealt with some changes and sadness off of the course. Swafford’s father David passed away in December, and his father’s 84th birthday would have been last week.
He won the event with a heavy heart as his dad introduced him to the game of golf. Swafford commented on his father saying:
“[He] had a mild form of Parkinson’s later on in life, about age 77, but he lived a great healthy life. My dad loved sports and played golf his entire life. He moved to Florida and fell in love with it. And that’s kind of where I fell in love with it. He taught me everything I know. How to be a dad, how to be a friend, how to be a champion, and how to play golf.”
Making some changes
Hudson made a tough decision in 2020 and parted ways with a long-time coach and a close friend, Scott Hamilton. Of the parting he commented: “Ball striking is one of my strengths and I wasn’t even close.”
So Swafford got together with John Tillery, the Director of Instruction at Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee in Eatonton, Georgia. Tillery works with other PGA pros including Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and fellow Georgia Bulldog Kevin Kisner.
Swafford cleaned up some things and strengthened his swing, saying:
“Starting Congaree, about a month later when I finished second and then through the playoffs I really played great golf. I hit it unbelievably well, even in the fall.”
Then last week before The American Express, Swafford changed putters. He transitioned to a heel-shafted putter to help it swing a little bit more. It’s a Scotty Cameron 7.5, and “oh man, I rolled it incredibly well this week.”
So well he overcame long odds to win at the highest level in golf again.
Swafford’s schedule and potential shot at the Masters
Swafford’s schedule ahead includes playing in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines this week. And then taking a week off before heading to Arizona for the Phoenix Open.
He’ll take another week off before the four tournaments at the Bermuda grass stretch in Florida. Speaking of the Bermuda grass, Swafford commented:
“I grew up on [it], so I’m looking forward to that. Just want to be as fresh as possible for that stretch of golf.”
At the end of March, Swafford will return to the Dominican Republic. There, he takes part in the Corales Puntacana Championship, which he won in 2020.
Swafford will likely be in the top 50 of the OWGR’s the following week. In that case, he’ll make his third appearance in The Masters at Augusta National Apr. 7-10.
Swafford has played in the Masters at Augusta National twice and missed the cut in 2017 and 2021. His win at The American Express moved him up from No. 166 to 61 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).
The former Georgia Bulldog is also up to No. 7 in the 2022 FedExCup standings with so much to look forward to the rest of the season.
You can bet on it.
Dawgs on Tour Birdie Challenge
The Dawgs on Tour Birdie Challenge began in September. It concludes at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in August of 2022. The birdies program was the brainchild of legendary Georgia golf coach Chris Haack.
11 former Bulldogs are playing on the PGA Tour as full-time members – most of any colleges on Tour. Those UGA alumni have joined together and agreed to contribute to the Georgia Bulldog Club for each birdie they record this season.
- Harris English
- Brian Harman
- Russell Henley
- Chris Kirk
- Kevin Kisner
- Keith Mitchell
- Greyson Sigg
- Sepp Straka
- Hudson Swafford
- Brendon Todd
- Bubba Watson
UGA has created a website specifically for the Birdie Challenge where fans can get more details and register for the program.
Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press