Youth dominating golf on global scale

By Jason SobelOctober 17, 2011, 6:51 pm

I’ve never been much of an optimist. Offer me a glass half-full and I’ll pour it out. Show me a silver lining and I’ll maintain that gold is a better buy.

It’s more than that, though. I don’t get too hyper about hyperbole. I have aggravations with exaggerations.

Keep all of that in mind as I make the following proclamation about the impending future of golf: It’s brighter than ever.

This isn’t in regard to the state of the game at its grassroots level or a rebirth in the number of courses being built – though each could be positively impacted by this idea.

Instead, it’s about what is currently taking place at the game’s most elite stage, and what will be taking place for an awfully long time to come.

Ever since players have been competing for cash, there have been young studs on the horizon, threatening the status of seasoned veterans. Never before, though, has the crop of prospects been as respected as they are right now.

There’s no better explanation than to simply ponder a response to this question: Who is the most talented young player in the world? The easy answer is Rory McIlroy, the 22-year-old wunderkind who won the U.S. Open in dominating fashion earlier this summer.

Observers may have proffered a double-take in recent weeks, though. Rickie Fowler, also 22, broke through for his first career professional win in Korea. Tom Lewis followed by claiming the Portugal Masters title in just his third pro start on Sunday.

It speaks volumes about the skill level of these kids that the answer can change seemingly on a week-to-week basis. And it says even more that they’re not just contending, but learning to win on the professional ranks at such a young age.

In previous generations, this triumvirate would have provided all the fuel necessary to flame the rivalry of newcomers versus the establishment, but these days they have plenty of company from their up-and-coming peers.

There’s Jason Day, 23, who finished as runner-up at two of this year’s major championships. Ryo Ishikawa, 20, whose professional victory total has already reached double-digits. Matteo Manassero, 18, who already owns two European Tour titles. Bud Cauley, 21, who is on the verge of becoming the sixth player in the past three decades to earn his PGA Tour card without Q-School or a developmental tour.

At the risk of simply listing more unique talents, there’s Patrick Cantlay, a UCLA sophomore who has already made his mark on the professional circuit. Peter Uihlein, who took last year’s U.S. Amateur crown. Harris English and Russell Henley, a pair of recent University of Georgia grads who claimed Nationwide Tour wins before ever turning pro.

That foursome competed on the U.S. Walker Cup team last month. It should only serve as further proof of the global budding talent level that they lost to the team from Great Britain and Ireland.

There is a dizzying array of ridiculously gifted and hard-working youngsters. They’ll not only have to share riches and fame with each other, though, but a bevy of already proven players who are only a few years their senior. Four of the world’s top-10 ranked golfers are 30 or younger, as are each of the next three just outside that delineation. They include rising stars such as Webb Simpson and major winners like Martin Kaymer. In fact, three of the current holders of major titles – and five of the last seven – are 20somethings.

The future of golf is in such a good place at the elite level that it would be easy to proclaim this the beginning of a transformation from the so-called Tiger Era to one of greater parity and more superstars.

In keeping with my newfound optimistic viewpoint, though, allow me to offer what can only be considered the brightest of bright ideas: Tiger Woods returns to past form early next season, but instead of singularly dominating tournaments as he did for so many years, his younger peers – the players who aren’t intimidated by his persona and aren’t afraid to win – continue to step up, one by one challenging him for titles that become larger than simply the trophy for which they are competing.

Add in continued consistent play by stars like Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, and perhaps renewed invigoration for Phil Mickelson, and the next five to 10 years could be a golden age for the game, the likes we haven’t seen in decades.

When Jack Nicklaus first burst onto the scene as a baby-faced 22-year-old at the 1962 U.S. Open, his immediate rivals were Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. While those competitions persisted for years, by the time Nicklaus’ career was winding down, he had cultivated new, younger opponents – most notably Tom Watson.

Woods may never return as the player he once was. If he does, he may finally find a worthy foil in a player like McIlroy, or the opposition could come in the form of a few dozen young, talented players – each of whom has been making his mark during Tiger’s absence from the winner’s circle.

Should the latter take place, it would ultimately provide an entertaining landscape, the likes of which hasn’t been captured in a very long time. It would be a momentous change, sure, but change isn’t always a bad thing.

Hey, even a glass half-empty guy can be optimistic about the future.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.