Punch Shot: Who will win Tour Rookie of the Year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 26, 2015, 8:00 pm

Two events into the new PGA Tour season, two rookie winners. That's already one more rookie champion than the entirety of the previous season. So, looking very far ahead, who will take home Rookie of the Year honors? Our writers weigh in.


Emiliano Grillo was an emerging star even before he won the season-opening Frys.com Open.

The 23-year-old Argentine was a heralded part of the high school class of 2011, as much of a talent in those days as Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas or Patrick Rodgers or Ollie Schniederjans. They went their separate ways – to the pros, to college, to Europe – but now have reconnected on the PGA Tour.

Grillo apprenticed on the European circuit for the past few years, and was in position to win the PGA Tour's Puerto Rico Open last season before blowing a 3-footer on the 72nd hole. A few months later, he ripped through the Web.com Tour Finals, a run that saw him win the Tour Championship with a cold-blooded 25-footer on the last.

Keep in mind that he’s had three major life changes recently – he got married, earned his card and won on Tour in a matter of weeks – so he’s due for a letdown at some point. But once he settles into a rhythm, he’ll be a weekly contender, just like the old days, with Spieth, Thomas and Rodgers. 


Emiliano Grillo is tough to bet against, but Smylie Kaufman came from seven strokes back and won in the betting capital of the world Sunday taking the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas with that brilliant 61.

Kaufman, 23, is yet another big-hitter, but he’s also a terrific putter. It’s a tough combination to beat these days. Kaufman was sixth in driving distance on the Web.com Tour this past season, but he ranked even higher with the flat stick. He was fifth in putting average and third in birdies. Sunday’s victory combined with his T-10 finish at the season-opening Frys.com makes Kaufman the early – yes, very early – man to beat in the Rookie of the Year race. He’s also atop the FedEx Cup standings.


Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman have gotten off to impressive head starts in the race for the 2015-16 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, but fellow first-timer Patton Kizzire has proven he has the consistency to claim the title.

Kizzire finished second to Kaufman on Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open after skipping the season-opening Frys.com Open, which was won by Grillo, to get married.

But it’s what the 29-year-old did in 2015 on the Web.com Tour that makes him the favorite among a particularly strong list of rookies this season.

In his first full season on the secondary circuit, Kizzire finished in the top 10 in 12 of 23 starts, including two victories (Utah Championship and News Sentinel Open) and a pair of runner-up showings.

The former Auburn University standout won the regular and Finals combined money list on the Web.com Tour to secure his first trip to the PGA Tour and, more importantly, full status this season.

Kizzire will be able to play a full schedule, at least relative to this year’s other rookies, free from the worries of the priority list that dictates what events newcomers can play.

Kizzire may have spotted Grillo and Kaufman an early victory but he still has the time and the track record to emerge as this year’s top rookie.


It’s hard to pass on Emiliano Grillo, especially after his season-opening win, but I’ll side with the player who nearly followed Grillo to the winner’s circle last week: Patton Kizzire.

It took some time for Kizzire to find his footing in the professional game, but the 29-year-old experienced a breakthrough season last year on the Web.com Tour that was marked by impressive consistency. Kizzire won twice en route to challenging the circuit’s all-time, single-season earnings record, and his 12 top-10 finishes in 23 starts showed that his results were the product of steady play throughout the year.

Kizzire took a week off earlier this month to get married, then promptly finished T-2 in Las Vegas in his first start as a member, highlighted by a Sunday 63. PGA Tour courses aren’t the same as on the Web.com, but Kizzire hits it plenty long and should his putter remain reliable – he led the tour last year in birdie average, scoring average and total putting – he could challenge for a spot at the Tour Championship.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.