Youthful pros continue to have success on Tour

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2014, 11:33 pm

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The comment doesn’t seem so absurd anymore.

Two amateurs named Harris English and John Peterson had just finished 1-2 at a then-Nationwide Tour in 2011 when Peterson, the NCAA champ, woofed:

“The top guys in college, the top 20 or 30 guys, can beat the top 20, 30 guys on the PGA Tour. Maybe with the exception of two or three guys who are constantly up there, those top 20 college guys will beat those top 20 or 30 PGA Tour guys, if given the opportunity. They just don’t have the opportunity.”

Was he overly giddy at the high finish? Of course. Was he young and brash? Sure.

But 2 1/2 years later, it’s clear that Peterson knew of the impending storm. English has two Tour wins in the past eight months, while Peterson finished T-4 at the 2012 U.S. Open, made the cut in the Masters, and blitzed through Tour Finals to secure his playing privileges this year.

That golf is in the midst of a youth movement is no new revelation, yet this season it is one of the earliest and most intriguing story lines. So far, five of the eight winners have been in their 20s. Last year, in 40 events, there were 14 20-something champions.

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Compare that to the past 10 years, and you can see where the game is headed. In 2009, in 46 events, there were only six wins by players in their 20s, including just two under 25. In 2004, in 48 events, there were just 10 20-something winners.

Last week, Patrick Reed, 23, started with three consecutive rounds of 63 to set the Tour scoring mark en route to his second win in his last nine starts. His decisive victory at the Humana moved Reed into elite company, joining Rory McIlroy, 24, and English, 24, as the only players under 25 with multiple Tour titles.

Of course, Reed’s peers knew of his talent. He was a two-time NCAA champion at Augusta State, where in back-to-back years he knocked off both Peter Uihlein and English in singles to earn the pivotal points for his team.

“Kids come out and they’re ready to win,” said two-time winner Jimmy Walker, who needed 188 starts to break through on the PGA Tour. “I don’t think I was as good as Jordan Spieth was. He’s 20. It takes longer (for some players).”

Not long ago, there was only one answer – Rory – to the question of the best player in the world under 30. Now there are myriad choices, from Spieth (20) to Hideki Matsuyama (21) to English (24) to Keegan Bradley (27) to Dustin Johnson (29, for a few more months at least). Twenty-somethings occupy eight spots in the world’s top 30, but there are dozens more uber-talented prospects in the pipeline.

“I think everybody is just feeding off each other,” said Russell Henley, 24. “Obviously it’s gotten way more competitive and more and more guys are playing out here. And it’s going to keep happening, too.”

So, what happened? 

Sure, equipment has helped narrow the playing field, shortening the gap between elite and very good. But college stars also play a demanding schedule against elite competition on tough tracks all season long, preparing them for the grind of tour life. What’s more, amateurs are being given more opportunities in pro events, which provide not only a chance to test their game but also their nerves.

Henley played in two U.S. Opens and a handful of Nationwide events while he was in college at Georgia. During his junior and senior years, he watched as Rickie Fowler splashed onto the scene at just 20 years old, nearly winning the 2009 Frys and, a year later, earning a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

When it came time for Henley to jump to the pros, he hardly seemed fazed – he won the Sony Open in his first start as a PGA Tour member.

“I think you’d be lying if you said it didn’t motivate you to see your friends playing really well,” Henley said. “It’s a great thing, though. It’s exciting for me to know that the same guys I’ve been playing in tournaments with forever are doing well. I know that I can do it again, too.”

Which brings us back to Peterson’s point. Finally given an opportunity, the 20-somethings are proving that, yes, they can beat the 20 or 30 best Tour players. And there are more on the way.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen: