Defending champions Matt Kuchar and Harris English have to be the favorites for the 32nd QBE Shootout this week on the Gold Course at Tiburon Golf Course in Naples, Fla.
Kuchar and English also claimed this in 2013 and 2016, in addition to finishing second in 2014 and 2015 in the tournament hosted by Australian great Greg Norman that started in 1989, when Mark O’Meara and Curtis Strange won at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks—where the tournament was contested for the first 11 times.
“Across the board, we are thrilled with the compelling teams and outstanding players heading to Naples and Tiburon Golf Club this year,” Norman said. “These dynamic duos of rising stars, PGA Tour winners and major champions are sure to create three exciting days of competition for the Southwest Florida community and our global television audience.”
The two-man team event starts with a scramble format on Friday, followed by foursomes on Saturday and four-ball, or better-ball in the final round on Sunday.
Despite the strength of the field. Kuchar and English have to be the ones to watch based on their history of winning the tournament three times.
“That is laughable,” Kuchar said last year after he and English won by nine strokes over defending champions Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia and Kevin Tway at 37-under-par. “It’s hard to fathom just how good of golf that was.
“The show Harris put on the back nine was just awesome. I think he pulled me aside after No. 14 and said, ‘I think we need two shots to set the new record.’ I said, ‘We’ve got four chances.’ And he went ahead and went birdie-eagle-birdie to close it out. It was fun to watch.”
Harris and Kuchar finished three strokes better than the QBE Shootout record of 34-under set by Fred Couples and Raymond Floyd in 1990 and equaled by English and Kuchar in 2013, when they won by seven shots over Retief Goosen of South Africa and Freddie Jacobsen of Sweden on the Gold Course at Tiburon designed by tournament host Norman.
Kuchar and Norman combined for an eagle and 10 birdies in the final round of their latest victory in the event.
“It’s funny, as a player you stay in the moment pretty well and don’t think too much about it,” English said when it was over. “I didn’t want to put too much thought into us having a five-shot lead coming in today
“I kind of wanted to put more into seeing what we could do, trying to break the record.”
Among the other 11 teams challenging English and Kuchar will be Billy Horschel and Sam Burns, Kevin Na of Diamond Bar and Jason Kokrak, Corey Conners of Canada and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Jason Day and Marc Leishman of Australia and Matt Jones of Australia and Ryan Palmer.
McDowell has finished second in the tournament three times, alongside Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland in 2010, with Shane Lowry of Ireland in 2017, and next to Emiliano Grillo of Argentina in 2018.
Also in the field are Ian Poulter of England and Charles Howell III, Sean O’Hair and Will Zalatoris, Max Homa of Valencia and Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman and Hudson Swafford, K.H, Lee of South Korea and Brandt Snedeker, and Bubba Watson and Lexi Thompson, who is competing against the men in the tournament for the fifth time.
Thompson’s best finish in the tournament was a tie for fourth with Tony Finau in 2017, but she and Watson will be gunning for Kuchar and English, like everyone else.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html