The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is cashing in this year through a busy schedule

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Eric Cole was not happy with the way he hit the ball from tee to green during Friday’s second round of the Genesis Invitational, so he headed to the range following his 18 holes and got to work. It paid off on Saturday.

And then it paid off again after Sunday’s final round, when Cole earned nearly a half-million dollars.

Cole, the South Florida resident and the PGA Tour’s 2023 rookie of the year, not only fired a 6-under 65 during the second round, but he was first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green for the day when he finished his round.

“Got some things dialed in,” Cole said. “It was definitely better (Saturday). Made a couple of putts on top of that.”

Cole improved each of the first three days at Riviera Country Club with scores of 73, 69 and 65. His final-round 69 dropped him out of contention, but he still finished strong enough to place in a six-way tie with Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, Adam Svensson and J.T. Poston for 10th place.

That proved enough to walk home with $455,000.

Hideki Matsuyama won the event after a bogey-free 9-under 62 on Sunday. For his efforts, Matsuyama took home the signature event’s top prize of $4 million, nearly double what he earned for his 2021 Masters victory.

Will Zalatoris (69) and Luke List (68), who finished T-2 at 14 under, each took home $1.8 million as a consolation prize.

More: 2024 Genesis Invitational prize money payouts for each PGA Tour player

But for Cole, his breakout year in 2023, the year in which he turned 35. He played 37 events with seven top 10s, including two seconds. One of those was the Honda Classic (now Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches) where he lost a playoff to Chris Kirk. Cole will return to play in this year’s Cognizant, which starts Feb. 29 at PGA National.

All of that resulted in Cole capturing the tour’s Rookie of the Year, 50 years after his mom, Laura Baugh, won the same award on the LPGA Tour. He is the second-oldest player to be named top rookie behind Todd Hamilton, who was 39 when he won in 2004. The Rookie of the Year Award was established in 1990.

Cole, who has risen to a career-high No. 37 in the world rankings (he was No. 328 one year ago) continues to seek his first PGA Tour win. Genesis marked his seventh straight start this season. He now has five top-25 finishes and has already amassed $1.37 million this season although he will finally enjoy a week off as the Tour travels to Mexico this week.

“I always have high expectations for myself,” he said. “Maybe it’s not as big of a shock to other people this year versus last year but golf is a tough sport and anytime you have a good day it’s a good thing. It’s always a good feeling when you have a good day.”

Tom D’Angelo is a sports columnist and reporter at The Palm Beach Post. He can be reached at Follow him on social media @tomdangelo44.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek