The Next Big Thing


According to one top agent, it is very difficult to determine how much money newly-crowned U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee left on the table by not immediately turning professional.
But, said Texas-based Rocky Hambric of Hambric Sports Management, He (Lee) will probably make more money long term by remaining amateur.
Hambric said theres not as much money available from equipment companies to hot young prospects as there was five or six years ago. But, he added, theres no question Lee will be the next great player. And today, if youre great, you will make more money than you can ever spend.
The 18-year-old Lee, a New Zealander of Korean descent, is the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Amateur, breaking a Tiger Woods record. He is also the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world and recently tied for 20th at the PGA TOUR's Wyndham Championship.
Asked to rank his top amateur prospects for the PGA TOUR since Woods turned professional in 1996, Hambric called it a tie for first between Lee and Anthony Kim, a former client. This kid (Lee) is as good as Anthony Kim and maybe a little bit better putter, said Hambric, who had a representative of his company scouting Lee at the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst last week.
Hambrics guy wasnt alone. Pretty much every player agency worth its weight in titanium was at Pinehurst. Sources say IMG, the biggest of the management companies, made contact with Lee but no negotiations took place.
It wasnt as bad as it could have been, Hambric said of the rush to Lee. He pointed out there was plenty of interest in USCs Jamie Lovemark and Oklahoma States Rickie Fowler, both of whom are generally expected to turn pro before Lee.
On the matter of who Azingers four picks will be, almost everyone agrees Steve Stricker is a lock because of his No. 10 spot in the latest world rankings.
After that its up for grabs. One source close to the selection process said he hears Azinger is leaning toward Bubba Watson, currently way down at No. 97 in the world rankings.
Since none of the players, not already on the team, are red-hot, Scott Verplank becomes an extremely logical choice.
Verplank is 4-1-0 in his two previous Ryder Cup appearances. Hes 2-0 in singles including a 2-and-1 victory over Lee Westwood at the Belfry in 2002 and a 4-and-3 pasting of Padraig Harrington at the K Club in Ireland two years ago.
Moreover, Verplank tied for 12th at Barclays last week to move up 47 spots in the FedExCup point standings from 100 to 53.
Verplank ranks 13th in driving accuracy and 36th in putting average this year on the PGA TOUR. Those are both numbers a captain is looking for, especially in choosing players to send out in the foursomes (alternate shot) matches.
Were quietly optimistic, said Verplanks agent, John Mascatello.
Verplank is playing this week in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
GOLF CHANNEL has confirmed from Nick Faldo that the European captain will not ask for an extension to make his captains picks.
It had been reported (by this reporter) that Faldo would get an extension from European Ryder Cup officials, if he asked for one.
Instead Faldo has said that he will make his picks Sunday following the Johnnie Walker Championships at Gleneagles in Scotland. The conclusion of that event will determine the 10 players qualifying for the European team on points. Shortly thereafter (some time in the early afternoon on the East Coast in the U.S.) Faldo will name his two picks.
The early heavy favorites are Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter.
If Faldo had asked for an extension, he could have also weighed the results of the Deutsche Bank Championship which concludes Monday in the U.S.
American captain Paul Azinger will name his four captains selections Tuesday Sept. 2 in New York.

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt