Story 9 Young Guns Firing

By Rex HoggardDecember 12, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesAnthony Kim was fidgeting nervously, his attention split between his cell phone and the flat-screen television mounted on the wall of the Dove Mountain clubhouse, when the imposing figure of Tiger Woods drifted down the hallway.
 
You good? asked the world No. 1 on his way to the first tee for his opening-round match against J.B. Holmes at this years WGC-Match Play Championship.
 
All good, Kim smiled.
 

Coming of Age

20-something winners on the PGA Tour in 2008
 
D.J. Trahan, 27 ' Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
J.B. Holmes, 25 ' FBR Open
Sean OHair, 25 ' PODS Championship
Andres Romero, 26 ' Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Johnson Wagner, 28 ' Shell Houston Open
Trevor Immelman, 28 ' Masters
Adam Scott, 27 ' Byron Nelson Championship
Anthony Kim, 22 ' Wachovia Championship
Sergio Garcia, 28 ' The Players Championship
Anthony Kim, 23 ' AT&T National
Chez Reavie, 26 ' Canadian Open
Parker McLachlin, 29 ' Reno-Tahoe Open
Camilo Villegas, 26 ' BMW Championship
Camilo Villegas, 26 ' Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson, 24 ' Turning Stone Resort Champ.
 
' Rex Hoggard


Its well documented that Kim used Woods renowned work ethic and dedication as a model to break out of what the second-year Tour player described as a self-destructive lifestyle. These days its easy to imagine Woods eyeing Kim, the media-friendly front man of what has become a productive and promising youthful crop.
 
Twentysomethings accounted for 15 of the 48 Tour titles in 2008, with Kim and Colombias Camilo Villegas leading the way with two keepsakes apiece. The average age of a Tour champion was 33.5 and more titles went to players in their 20s than in their 40s (nine).
 
Day care may not have replaced experience on Tour, but in 2008 the pendulum swayed further in the direction of youth than at any time during the Woods era. And at no time were the fresh faced more fearless than during a seven-week early-summer stretch.
 
Twentysomethings won six of seven events starting with Andres Romeros victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Included in that run was Trevor Immelmans Masters breakthrough, where the South African became the first 20-something not named Woods to win a major since Geoff Ogilvy was the last man standing in 2006 at Winged Foot.
 
It may not be the dominant youth movement the late Earl Woods once predicted, but some consider 2008 the first step in a changing of the guard.
 
Just look at what Camilo has done for the FedEx Cup series, two back-to-back victories. Now that should give him a lot of energy to take into 2009, Greg Norman said.
 
If I'm Tiger sitting there, I'm going, wow, now these kids are going to be more enthusiastic and more confident, and the game of golf is going to be the great benefactor here because now you've probably got another five, six players that can step up to the plate. . . now you've got a lot of young players out there who are really ready, willing and able to pick up their confidence and really go for it.
 
The under-30 set put a punctuation mark on the season at the Ryder Cup, where the United States side featured three players in their 20s, including Kim, Hunter Mahan ' who did not win in 2008 but finished 30th in earnings ' and Holmes. The threesome combined for a 6-1-5 record at Valhalla, including tree-rattling Sunday singles routs against Garcia (Kim, 5 and 4) and Soren Hansen (Holmes, 2 and 1),
 
I think there's some younger guys who are really stepping up and winning some golf tournaments and are going to have the opportunity to play some golf against (Woods) and maybe contend in some more golf tournaments, said Kim, who, at 22, was the youngest winner on Tour in 08.
 
Maybe even more encouraging for those who have awaited a fresh crop of Tiger challengers is the new faces who emerged in 2008. Joining Adam Scott, 27; Garcia, 28; Kim and Villegas in the winners circle this year were Romero, Johnson Wagner, 28, and hard-swinging Dustin Johnson, the 24-year-old who broke out of a late-season slump to win the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
 
And the list of promising players in their 20s who didnt win in 08 gives more weight to the notion that the Tour is more Gen X than Geritol.
 
Woods injury-induced midseason hiatus may partially explain the surge in youthful champions. More measured expectations have also helped the up-and-coming adjust to life on Tour.
 
Until the new guy reached that level they were touted as the next Tiger Woods and there was a lot of money thrown at them and we had a succession of underachieving stars, said Rocky Hambric, Johnsons manager with Hambric Sports. Since then companies have cut back how much they pay and people have been less willing to jump on the bandwagon.
 
Younger champions is a trend that will likely continue in 2009, but the U.S. Golf Associations plan to dial back grooves may slow the climb for some of the twentysomethings.
 
The return to V grooves, which are designed to restore the challenge of playing shots from the rough, will begin with the 2010 season and will force players to learn a new skill set.
 
Some of the young guys will have to learn about flier lies and what shots to hit which they havent had to learn, Hambric said. That will probably set the trend back a little bit.
 
For now, however, the twentysomethings have arrived. Or, as Kim might offer, its all good.
 
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”