Rookies Off to Fast Start


The collateral fallout from the nuclear, seven-shot victory that long-hitting J.B. Holmes dropped on the unsuspecting field at the FBR Open Sunday is that we now have a corking good race for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. And the season is barely five weeks old.
The leader in the clubhouse at the moment is the 23-year-old Holmes who scorched the back side at the TPC of Scottsdale for a 31 in the fourth round. None of Holmes drives Sunday (other than the Par 3s) was less than 300 yards. Even more impressive was this stat: He finished tied for first in putts per round for the week.
Holmes sweet Holmes.
Holmes also displayed a flair for the theatric. He amiably chatted up fans while waiting to tee off on the 17th hole of his final round. And he scored his first PGA Tour victory on his mothers birthday.
It seems like weve been waiting forever for the American young guns to rise in the ranks behind Tiger Woods. And it hasnt happened. Yet. Woods has played in four Ryder Cups starting in 1997 at Valderrama. And each time he has been the youngest member of the American team.
The potential emergence of Holmes and Bubba Watson and, lets not forget, Bill Haas, could represent a sea change. Watson blew everybodys socks off at the Sony Open last month when he averaged more than 340 yards off the tee in the final round while hitting 11 of 14 fairways. He wound up fourth all by himself.
In fact the three longest drivers on the PGA Tour so far in this young season, statistically, are all rookies. Watson leads at 324.9, Holmes is second at 313.5 and Colombian Camilo Villegas is third at 311.8. John Daly, if youre looking for a point of reference, ranks 15th.
The diminutive Villegas grabbed a share of second place at Phoenix thanks to four rounds in the 60s. He dresses like hes about to go dancing. But he is serious about his golf and was an all-American AND an academic all-American at the University of Florida. Clothes dont make the man on the PGA Tour. Game does. Villegas, apparently, has plenty of both.
And lets not forget 30-year-old Aussie Nathan Green, also a rookie on our Tour this year. Green famously butchered the first hole of a playoff with Woods and Jose Maria Olazabal late last month at Torrey Pines. But his play has been steady and consistent in 2006.
Meanwhile, nobody I have found is ready to say Haas time wont come.
So all of a sudden we have an answer, at least for now, of where the American young guns are. Green and Villegas, as has been noted are not from our country. Ryan Moore, another cant miss kid, is technically not a rookie.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Consider this rather astonishing fact: Through the FBR Open, J.B. Holmes, who has played less than 10 PGA Tour events in his life, is ninth on the current Ryder Cup points list.
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