AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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PGA Tour

Sony Open contender spent some of his offseason playing golf in ... Cuba?

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Andrew Putnam plays his shot from the fifth tee during the third round of the Sony Open.

Andy Lyons

HONOLULU — Andrew Putnam spent the brief golf “offseason” in fairly typical fashion.

Spent time with the family around the holidays. Played a little golf, but not too much, intent on getting refreshed for the restart in the new year. Followed his beloved Seattle Seahawks as they marched to the NFL playoffs.

Oh, and he visited Cuba.

Though reluctant to talk about his trip to the Communist-run island nation of 11 million people—given its uncomfortable relations with the U.S.—Putnam shared some details about his trip to a country that has suffered economic austerity for decades but has encountered even more hardship after the pandemic.

“The people there are really struggling after COVID, and we have some friends who are doing some things over there to help start businesses, show them what to do and provide a little seed money,” he explained. “We just wanted to help out a little.”

Five years removed from his only PGA Tour victory, Putnam, 33, is in the thick of things heading into Sunday’s final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. With birdies on his final five holes at Waialae Country Club, the Tacoma, Wash., native tied the low round of the tournament with an eight-under 62 on Saturday and completed 54 holes in 12-under 198. He sits T-5 and trails leader Hayden Buckley by three strokes.

Considering that he began the event three over par in his first eight holes, Putnam is rather pleased with his position, not to mention extending his streak of cuts made to 13, second only to last week’s winner at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Jon Rahm.

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Andrew Putnam lines up a putt during the first round of the Sony Open.

Icon Sportswire

“Just taking so much time off, had to kind of get back in the mode of playing competitive golf,” said Putnam, who played eight of nine fall events, highlighted by a T-2 finish at the Zozo Championship in Japan. “Ever since the [eighth hole] I've been, what, 15-under, so pretty good.”

In addition to a short trip to Phoenix, where he and his family lived for a few years, Cuba, just 90 miles south of Florida, was his only opportunity to play golf.

In aiding his friends, Putnam helped arrange and played in a charity event called the Friendship Tournament at the country’s only 18-hole golf course, Varadero Golf Club, which is owned by the Ministry of Tourism. The format of the two-day event was a “Shamble,” so he didn’t have a score to share, though he felt he played well. In a nine-hole practice round the day before, Putnam was seven under par.

“It’s not too difficult,” he said of the public facility, which was in decent shape despite the fact that the club recently lost almost its entire fleet of riding mowers in a fire, requiring maintenance crews to push mow most of it.

“I was just there to help out and support our friends,” Putnam said of what was a goodwill trip. “And we’ve made some friends over there. They are having a tough time.”

Beginning the Sony’s third round seven shots behind of Chris Kirk, Putnam made windless Waialae look pretty easy, too. He went out in five-under 30 playing the back nine first (which is usually the front nine for the membership), but then encountered a bit of bother with consecutive bogeys at the third and fourth holes before his late birdie burst. The run included putts of 23 and 34 feet at the par-4 sixth and eighth holes, respectively.

In all, Putnam holed 167 feet of putts to lead in strokes gained/putting for the day with an advantage of 4.625 strokes. He also leads that stat for the tournament, gaining 10.201 strokes.

His explanation: just had time to shake off the rust.

“I'm just happy to be in Hawaii to start the year,” Putnam said. “We always come over a week early with my family, vacation with all our family. It's a great place to start.”

Putnam’s cut streak began at the 3M Open in July, the event after he missed the weekend at the Barracuda Championship. Coincidentally, his lone victory came in the 2018 Barracuda contested in the modified Stableford format. Nope, it was not a Shamble.