Koepka shows there's more than one way to the top

By Jason SobelNovember 17, 2014, 4:40 pm

The number of intrigued parties watching Brooks Koepka capture his first career European Tour victory on Sunday included plenty of A-listers within the game’s inner circle.

Potential future U.S. Ryder Cup captains who now understand how to pronounce his last name. Masters Tournament officials who will need to find his address for an impending invitation. And, of course, fellow elite players who witnessed a budding star with whom they'll have to contend for a long time to come.

No group, though, observed Koepka’s final-round 65 and one-stroke triumph with more personal investment than the talented up-and-comers, those wannabe pros still plying their craft in the college and junior ranks.

Two years ago, bright-eyed and full of optimism after a fruitful career at Florida State, Koepka signed up for PGA Tour Qualifying School and promptly flamed out, failing to advance past the second stage. It’s hardly a unique story. Without any official status, most young golfers will attack the mini-tour circuit; they’ll practice harder, hopefully play better and return to Q-School one year later with experience and hunger added to the arsenal of shots that seemingly every young kid owns these days.

Koepka took a different route.

Emboldened by a world-beater attitude, he embarked on golf’s version of a post-grad study-abroad program, qualifying to play the Challenge Tour, a developmental underling of the European circuit.

This, too, is not fully unique. Koepka isn’t the first young American to take his game to foreign soil in hopes of finding a circuitous path into the game’s upper tier. In fact, he followed friend and fellow talent Peter Uihlein in his journey overseas. Koepka might be the most successful, though – and certainly among the most successful to make it this quickly.

In his first season on the Challenge Tour, he didn’t find it to be much of a challenge. He won his first tournament start, then won twice more that season, earning an automatic and immediate promotion to Europe’s big leagues. From there, the spoils continued: Sponsor’s exemptions into PGA Tour events, which he parlayed into full-time playing privileges; major championship starts, including a pair of top-15 results last year; and now, his first European Tour win, moving him to No. 35 in the current world ranking and affording him all the luxuries of playing a schedule similar to all of the game’s best players.

Not coincidentally, Koepka’s rise happened to coincide with a new PGA Tour policy. Unlike so many previous years, when an up-and-comer could pay his entry fee, advance through Q-School and earn a PGA Tour card, last year officials instituted a ceiling.

The rule change states that no matter how well a player fares during this qualifier – no matter how dominant he seems, no matter how ready he appears to make the step to compete against the Tigers and Rorys of the world – he can only reach the developmental Web.com Tour.

All of which left that rising star demographic – let’s call ‘em the 18-to-24-year-old group ready to take on the world – watching Koepka with more than just a passing interest.

He may not have provided the perfect blueprint for all of them, but he does symbolize hope.

Koepka has armed this group of up-and-comers with the knowledge that there’s more than one way to break into the game’s upper echelon. He busted the longstanding myth that players must compete in the PGA Tour’s own qualifier and if they don’t succeed, well, just try, try again.

“Looking back, it's unbelievable,” he said Sunday, the Turkish Airlines Open trophy resting nearby. “My goal from the get‑go was to come oversees and play, and I took advantage of it.”

His goal was never to inspire the potential stars of tomorrow, but that’s exactly what he’s done. If nothing else, Koepka has proven that when a young player comes to a fork in the road in their path toward a successful career, the one less traveled can still be the right one.

And so others will certainly attempt to follow in these footsteps. Some might find prosperity which mirrors that of Koepka and his burgeoning buddy Uihlein; many others will learn that it’s not as easy as they’ve made it look.

But they’ll understand that route now. On Sunday, as Koepka soared to the biggest moment of his young career so far, and as future Ryder Cup captains and Masters officials and fellow elite players witnessed the consummation of his long-term plan, that demographic of budding stars watched, too, and maybe altered their idea that there’s only one way to make it to the top.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.