Old Man Amongst Boys

By Jason SobelAugust 6, 2011, 7:34 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Adam Scott is old.

OK, so maybe he’s not graying and wrinkled and covered with liver spots, but compared with his fellow contenders at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the man is downright ancient.

“I don't feel old,” said the 54-hole leader. “I still act like a teenager sometimes.”

Actually, he’s acting one better than a teenager – specifically, Ryo Ishikawa, who at 19 trails Scott by a stroke entering Sunday’s final round.

Ishikawa is joined in second place by Jason Day, 23, while one shot further back are Martin Laird, 28, and Keegan Bradley, 25. If you’re scoring at home, that means the four men chasing the 31-year-old Scott are an average age of just under 24.

How does it feel to be the old guy on the leaderboard?

“I'm just happy to be on the leaderboard,” Scott said after posting a third-round 4-under 66. “I don't care how old I am. It is amazing. Jason playing well again and Ryo - these guys, teenagers. It's unbelievable. I think golf is looking in good shape for the future, really, with players like this up here now.”

Back in the olden days – you know, like a year or two ago – Scott would have been considered an up-and-comer himself, still playing the front nine of what has already been a very successful career. While the seven-time PGA Tour champion has certainly yet to reach his prime, he now finds himself surrounded by a plethora of rising stars.

It’s not just this week, either.

Youth has gone wild at the game’s most elite level this season. Twelve different 20-somethings have won tournaments in the U.S., tying for the second-most since 2000. If there was a turning point to usher in the new era, it came at the U.S. Open, where 22-year-old Rory McIlroy obliterated the field by eight strokes.

“Going back five, maybe 10 years ago, 31 was young out here,” said Day, who posted a 4-under 66 in the third round. “It's only getting younger and I think with the technology that we have today, with the competition that we have over here and obviously around the world, the game of golf is only improving. And with improvement, that obviously involves the younger kids.”

Day and Ishikawa are part of a global fivesome that should be called “The League of Extraordinary Young Gentlemen,” along with McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Matteo Manassero. Between them, they represent not only the future of golf, but – as evidenced by the leaderboard – the present, too. In fact, Fowler is in a share of sixth place, just three strokes back; McIlroy is two strokes behind in T-10; and Manassero is “lagging” at nine off the pace and in 30th place.

“The game of golf is in really good shape right now, with Ishikawa playing great here, McIlroy always plays great, and then Fowler,” Day added. “It really is fun. Give us a good few years and it's going to be a lot of young players out here that are going to be in contention.”

Of course, if any of the young guns are going to learn a cautionary tale, Scott can be the guy to deliver it. Like each of the aforementioned quintet, he was a can’t-miss kid who hasn’t missed, but hasn’t exactly set the golf world ablaze, either.

It’s taken Scott quite a few years to figure out not only how to compete in the game’s biggest events, but how to contend in them. He is still searching for that elusive first major championship win, but is trending upward as of late, with a runner-up result at the Masters and T-25 at the Open Championship.

He has also never won a World Golf Championship event and a victory on Sunday would rank amongst his greatest career achievements.

If Scott is to take home the hardware and the $1.4 million winner’s check, he’ll need to overcome a bevy of young talents in contention.

But the old man believes he can do it.

“You know, I've been in this position before and I've won some and I've lost some, but a one-shot lead is not a lot over 18 holes, so by no means am I a clear favorite or anything,” he said. “I don't feel like there's a lot of pressure on me, I just want to play well [Sunday]. That's the main thing. And I think if I do that, I can win.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.