Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama
College: Louisiana State University
Turned Professional: 2014
2015-2016 FedEx Cup Rank: 43rd
Professional Wins: 2 - 2015 PGA Tour Shriners Hospitals for Childrens Open & 2015 Web.com United Leasing Championship
Honors & Accolades: N/A
- Birdie machine - In his first season on the PGA Tour, Smylie Kaufman ranked 26th in birdie average. Evaluating young players, birdies are often a telling stat of potential and long-term success. Obviously, you want to make a lot of them and as a player matures bogeys can be coached away.
Areas for Improvement
- Health - Kaufman was simply fantastic during the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season until a lingering wrist injury cost him starts and practice time. I look forward to seeing a healthy Kaufman in 2017 in his early season form.
A look at Smylie Kaufman’s Swing
“One of Smylie’s great attributes is that when we come up with a plan of what to work on he sticks with the plan. Smylie also has a great understanding of what he wants his swing to look and feel like. The constants that we stay with are a good centered pivot on the backswing, good width with the club at the top and in transition to help keep the face square. We also focus on being on top of the plane on the down and being aggressive with his trunk through the ball.”
Smylie Kaufman's Swing Instructor
2016-2017 PGA Tour Season Outlook
Smylie Kaufman looks to come off a near-rookie of the year campaign and avoid the Sophomore slump. Kaufman’s season was highlighted by his win at the Shriners using a scintillating Sunday 61 to come from behind. Kaufman also showed he had major championship game at Augusta where he played his way into Sunday’s final group with leader Jordan Spieth. In 2017, I expect Kaufman to continue to be a threat in a lot of tournaments and move into the top 30 players who make it to the FedEx Cup Finals at East Lake.
Smylie Kaufman’s Path to the PGA Tour
Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Smylie Kaufman quickly became a big name on the junior circuit when he qualified for the 2006 U.S. Junior at the age of 14. His legend grew as Kaufman racked up high finishes in AJGA tournaments, his best finish a win at the 2008 AJGA Junior at Steelwood. At the state level, Kaufman was one of the best players finishing runner-up in both the 2010 Alabama High School State Championship and the Alabama State Junior. Besides golf, Kaufman also excelled at basketball in high school, playing on a state championship team his junior season and a runner-up team his senior season. Kaufman made the decision to take his talents out of state and play golf at neighboring SEC golf program, LSU.
During his freshman season at LSU, Kaufman played in only 3 events with his best finish a top 20 at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. However, in the summer following his Freshman year, Kaufman notched a big win back home, taking home the 2011 Alabama State Amateur besting fellow PGA Tour pro Bobby Wyatt by two shots. It was a precursor to a successful summer of amateur golf where Kaufman also notched solid finishes in the Southeastern Amateur and the Dogwood Invitational.
As a Sophomore, Kaufman began to crack the lineup a bit more often, playing in the starting 5 on 3 occasions while playing 6 events as an individual. His strongest finish came at the spring Argent Financial Classic where he finished runner-up, finishing just 1-shot back. While Kaufman didn’t have the year he would have liked on the course, he was stellar in the classroom earning Academic All-SEC honors.
The summer following his Sophomore season, Kaufman participated in many of the prestigious amateur championships with his best finish coming at the Greystone Invitational where he finished t6th. On the state circuit, he was unable to defend his State Amateur crown finishing runner-up.
As a Junior, Kaufman still hadn’t found a place in LSU’s top 5, but that changed after he played as an individual at the 2012 David Toms Invitational. Kaufman equaled his best collegiate finish, 2nd place. Following the David Toms, Kaufman began to get regular playing time on the Tigers’ team squad and made his NCAA Championship debut where he shot respectable rounds of 77-68-71 to finish t93rd.
In his final season at LSU, Kaufman put together his best season yet. He kicked off the fall with a t5th at the Carpet Capital Collegiate. During the spring season, Kaufman continued his strong play with a t6th finish at the Louisiana Classics. His game jumped a level when it came playoff time as Kaufman finished 2nd at the SEC Championships, t6th at the NCAA Columbia Regional and t19th at the NCAA Championships, helping LSU make the semifinals of the team championship. His strong postseason play earned Kaufman All-Southeast Region honors and moved him up to the 43rd ranked player in the country.
Immediately following his senior season, Kaufman took another stride towards elite status by qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. In the championship, Kaufman fired rounds of 73-76 to miss the cut by 4 shots.
In the fall of 2014, Kaufman headed to Q-School in hopes of earning his Web.com Tour Card. Playing first stage in Pinehurst, he was able to finish in first place after shooting 9-under par. Kaufman followed up his stellar 1st stage performance by breezing through 2nd stage with a t4th finish at the Brooksville site, assuring him some status on the Web.com Tour for 2015. At the final stage, Kaufman slipped up finishing in a tie for 67th and only earning conditional status for the 2015 season.
The lack of full-status meant Kaufman would have to rely on sponsor's exemptions and Monday qualifiers in order to get regular starts. His career got off to a rocky start as the rookie missed the cut in his first 3 tournaments. His next start came in his collegiate backyard of Louisiana and Kaufman got hot finishing in a tie for 4th after a pair of weekend 66’s. He backed up his stellar performance by Monday qualifying into the Shell Houston Open where he missed the cut. His next Web.com Tour start came at the El Bosque Mexico Championship where he again finished t4th moving himself up to 29th on the season money list. Up next was the United Leasing Championship at Victoria National, one of the Web.com Tour’s toughest stops. There, Kaufman put together a magical week, and after tying the course-record, 64 during Saturday’s third round Kaufman was able to cruise to his first professional victory. The win cemented that he would earn his PGA Tour card for the 2015-2016 season. The rest of Kaufman’s Web.com season was solid, as the LSU product almost won again at the Price Cutter Classic and ended the season ranked 6th on the money list.
It didn’t take Kaufman long to acclimate himself to PGA Tour life as the 23-year-old rookie finished t10th in his debut at the Frys.com Open. Kaufman continued his strong play the following week at the Shriners but entered the final round 7 shots back of the leaders. Sunday saw Kaufman play the round of his life, shooting a 10-under par 61 to win the championship by one-shot. The win locked up Kaufman’s status on tour for two seasons and earned him a spot in the 2016 Masters.
Following the win, Kaufman continued his strong play, making his next 6 cuts and notching 3 top 25 finishes. After a few missed cuts on the west coast, Kaufman’s strong play picked back up before the Masters, as he notched a top 10 at the WGC-Cadillac as well as a t12th at the Arnold Palmer.
Kaufman had begun to develop a cult following due to his unique first name, Smylie and his strong play as a rookie. At the 2016 Masters, the 24-year-old moved into the national spotlight after rounds of 73-72-69 found him in 2nd place heading into the final round and a pairing with longtime friend and defending champion Jordan Spieth. Although Kaufman struggled to a final-round 81 and a t29th finish, his star was born thanks to his strong play and an interview with Jim Nantz where Nantz poked fun at Kaufman’s car and living situation.
The remainder of 2016 saw Kaufman struggle with a wrist injury that limited his starts and ability to play. However, the young star did pick up notoriety for his personality on the much talked about SB2k16 trip as well as an interesting sponsor, Natural Light. At the end of the season, Kaufman ended up ranked 43rd in the FedEx Cup, narrowly missing a spot in the top 30 and a trip to East Lake.