Wheres the Next Big Wave

By December 24, 2006, 5:00 pm
2007 Big Questions Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is our No. 5 question for the upcoming season.
 
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Ireland this past fall.
 
And no, it wasnt the total beat down Team Europe gave the U.S. in the Ryder Cup. Heck, that train wreck was so bad it was almost funny. Just ask Woosie.
 
No, the unfunny part was the glaring light it shined on the lack of youth being served on the American side.
 
Although U.S. captain Tom Lehman had four rookies on the team, the average age of those four was 31. Not one player on the U.S. squad was in their 20s.
 
Lucas Glover
Lucas Glover finished up ranked 21st on the PGA TOUR money list in 2006.
So this became the question: Are Americans just going through a phase or is this cause for alarm?
 
It depends on who you ask, of course, but Jim Furyk doesnt seem too concerned.
 
It's cyclical. This is the same story two years ago, it was the young guns. It's like every odd year we have the young guns story and there's these five guys that come out and win a tournament, and all of a sudden, look out Tiger and Phil because these guys are going to be kicking for the next three years, and the stories go that way,' Furyk said.
 
Then all of a sudden two years later there's not a guy in the top 50 under 30 and the world is coming to an end. There's no reason to really get too, too upset or too excited about things because things aren't usually as good as they seem and they're never as bad as they seem, also. Just kind of sit back and relax and think the whole subject over. I think we have quite a few very good young players in the U.S.
 
Good players maybe. Very good young players? Not so fast, Mr. Furyk. Like he mentioned, there is a no denying the fact that at the moment there is just one American ' Lucas Glover - in the top-50. Then drop all the way down to 69th for the second 20something American ' Sean OHair.
 
Tiger Woods didnt help the young set by what he was able to accomplish in his 20s, which of course leads to unreasonable comparisons. But looking to the past, it used to be the norm for the young guns to have better starts to their careers.
 
Names like Tom Watson, Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw all had racked up multiple wins before the 26th birthdays. Today, only Ben Curtis and Jonathan Byrd have more than one victory in their 20s. And those two names dont quite stack up against the international likes of Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman and Paul Casey.
 
Multiple theories abound as to why international players in their 20s are having more success than their American counterparts.
 
I think one of the main differences between the two is travel, says Golf Channel and CBS analyst Peter Oosterhuis. The international players travel all across the world at such a young age in order to play. They turn pro at an early age and travel all over the world. This might help to toughen them up.
 
There is also a money factor, adds Oosterhuis. There is so much money in todays game that it could lead to a lack of desire. With all of the money that can be made, you really have to have lofty goals in order to stay competitive. You have to have a drive that goes beyond making a lot of money.
 
Troy Matteson
Troy Matteson closed the season with a victory and four other top-10 finishes.
And boy, is there plenty of money. The total purse on the PGA TOUR the year Tiger arrived in 1996 was $70,700,000. Now the number has exploded to the tune of a staggering $260,000,000.
 
With all that cash on the table, its also quite possible that many of the aging stars have decided to overhaul their training regimes to stay in shape and thus stay competitive. Plus, in golf, experience might possibly be the most important club in the bag, something the 20-years-olds dont yet quite have a handle on.
 
But there is at least hope, and it mostly comes in the form of raw power: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Lucas Glover and Troy Matteson. All won over a $1 million this past season and all hit it a ton, especially Watson and Holmes, who finished the year ranked 1-2 in driving distance on the PGA TOUR.
 
Holmes was a four-time All-American at the University of Kentucky, earned medalist honors at the 2005 Q-school and quickly won in his rookie season with a dominant seven-stroke win at the FBR Open. His length also enabled him to lead the TOUR in total eagles.
 
And he doesnt shy away from knowing what his strength is.
 
A lot of people like to see people hit it a long ways. Bubba Watson hits it long, John Daly, Tiger Woods. Everybody likes to see somebody hit it a long ways because a lot of the fans, they can't do that, said Holmes. Most of them, if they play, they've made a 30-footer or something like that. It's something they've done. But they can't hit it 340, 350, whatever.
 
Enter Watson, he of the 319.6 yard average off the tee. A Nationwide Tour graduate, he too started the season strong with a T-4 at the Sony Open and a third-place showing at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. Despite finishing near the bottom of the driving accuracy rankings, he did enjoy a 100-hole bogey-free streak during the season.
 
The abovementioned Glover had a storied college career and has steadily risen in each of his three years on TOUR. In 2005, Glover really made a name for himself when his holed a 100-foot bunker shot on the final hole to win the FUNAI Classic at Disney. This season, although without a win, the 27-year-old finished 21st on the final money list due to eight top-10 results.
 
And then theres Matteson, probably the least known of this group, but perhaps the hottest heading into next year. After setting the Nationwide Tour record for winnings in 2005, the former Georgia Tech star struggled for most of his rookie season before catching fire near the end of the year with a pair of back-to-back top-10s at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic and the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.
 
Suddenly armed with confidence to go along with his shot-making, Matteson then hit the jackpot, winning the Frys.com Open in Vegas for his maiden PGA TOUR win. A second-place finish the following week at Disney and another top-10 at the Chrysler Championship shot Matteson all the way up to an impressive 36th on the money list.
 
But will any of these 20somethings continue to make the progression to eventually make it into the top-10 in the world, or make a Ryder or Presidents Cup team? Or will someone like Sean OHair or Ryan Moore be the ones that make it near the top?
 
Those are questions that can only be answered out on the fairways in the next year or two. And hopefully, for the Americans' sake, sooner rather than later.
 
Related Links:
  • Reviewing 2006; Previewing 2007
  • Getty Images

    Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

    Getty Images

    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

    Getty Images

    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

    Getty Images

    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.