Big expectations for current crop of young guns

By Rex HoggardOctober 29, 2009, 1:59 am

The e-mail was from a friend and, more importantly, a long-time PGA Tour observer who has come by his insights honestly and it prompted an immediate and utterly repented mea culpa. The crime was a blog item that suggested Rickie Fowler’s play at last week’s Open had put a down payment on the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, and the rebuttal was more than warranted.

“Would you guys please stop it! The circus around (Fowler) is big enough as it is,” my electronic consciousness pleaded. “For once, let's let an American prospect prove himself first, then anoint him King, OK?”

In our race to discover the next big thing, the media is a chronic violator of the single-most important tenet in golf, if not all of sports – actions, not potential, are what counts.

It’s less an indictment on the abilities of Ty Tryon or Ricky Barnes or, with apologies to one of the Tour’s most engaging and accommodating players, Charles Howell III than it is an example of the media’s unrealistic expectations, and the 2010 lot has the potential of being a hanging fastball that is impossible to lay off.

Fowler, fresh off back-to-back top 10s and a playoff loss last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., would be the No. 1 draft choice for 2010 for many, but he’s followed closely by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Jamie Lovemark and Michael Sim.

Of the leading five, Fowler and McIlroy seem to have the most polished games at this stage although neither are full-time Tour locks for 2010. Fowler’s play has earned him an exemption into the second stage of Q-School, while McIlroy – who finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open and PGA and played 11 Tour events this year – will likely pass on Tour membership and play a similarly limited U.S. schedule in ’10.

“He did consider (membership), but he’s so young. I wouldn’t say we’re playing it safe. Just being sensible,” McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chandler with International Sports Management said. “It’s the first time I’ve managed a player and been concerned about burn out.”

Despite his play at the Open, where he finished second alongside Fowler in a playoff, Lovemark is bound for the capricious first round of Q-School this week, while Ishikawa (six Tour events in ’09) was solid for the International side at the Presidents Cup but will also play a limited Tour schedule next year.

Sim, who will not technically be a Tour rookie but struggled with injuries his first trip around the Big Leagues in 2007, owned the Nationwide Tour this year with three victories, a “battlefield promotion” and an earnings record. More importantly, he’s the only one among the five assured a full schedule. But even that guarantees nothing.

A close inspection confirms the 2010 class has the potential to be special.

“We have produced (rookie) classes with good players, but rarely with this much depth and this much potential commercial appeal,” said one longtime observer.

Without question, anyone who witnessed the media crush that followed Ishikawa’s every step this year, or McIlroy’s brush with the big stage when it counted the most or Fowler’s current 15 minutes of fabulousness can attest to the group’s Madison Avenue cache.

But then potential has never seen the front door to the World Golf Hall of Fame or Butler Cabin, just ask Mark Carnevale.

In 1992 Carnevale was on top of the world, a Tour winner, a rising star and the circuit’s Rookie of the Year, ahead of fellow first-year players Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Since that breakout year Carnevale has posted four top 10s and finished inside the top 125 in earnings just once. Ditto for 2000, when Michael Clark II took down the world-beater-in-waiting likes of Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi for RoY honors yet hasn’t seen the top 150 in earnings since.

The point? The deepest classes since 1990, the year the Tour starting dishing rookie hardware, have come from the most unpredictable places.

Few recall 1994 as a watershed moment for future Tour greatness, but that rookie class included Ernie Els (the RoY winner), Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Justin Leonard, Chris DiMarco and Shaun Micheel; or the 2002 class which featured Jonathan Byrd (RoY), Chad Campbell, Tim Clark, Luke Donald and Boo Weekley.

By comparison, 1997 is where potential proved a point and Tiger Woods became the only player to etch his name into the RoY crystal and the Jack Nicklaus Trophy during the same calendar. A good year? Yep, every bit as good as 1982 was for Bordeaux, but hardly deep considering that Jerry Kelly is the only other player of note still making headlines from the ’97 crop.

There is no denying the depth of the current “Fab Five.” Fowler’s next Tour stop (this week’s Viking Classic) could well be his first as a member if “Golf 2.0” finishes what he couldn’t last week and gets his first professional “W,” and European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie should rename McIlroy “The Franchise” in time for next year’s matches.

But they all have work to do before the media and fans hand them the keys to the kingdom. Or, as our e-mailing watchdog so succinctly put it, “let's let an American (or otherwide) prospect prove himself first, then anoint him King.”

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.