Matteson tied for second Sunday at the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney Resort. Last years leading money winner on the Nationwide Tour actually led at Disney for much of the front nine during the final round. A win would have been his second in two weeks. And it would have made all those voters who already have penciled in Trevor Immelman rethink their ballots.
Immelman, the last man to beat Tiger Woods in a PGA TOUR event'the Cialis Western Open way back in early July'has won more than twice as much money as any other rookie in 2006. And his spot in the top 15 of the Official World Golf Rankings is miles ahead of any other current rookies.
This years rookie group is, as they say in agriculture, a bumper crop. Four rookies'Immelman, Matteson, Eric Axley and J.B. Holmes'have won on the PGA Tour. Five others'Bubba Dickerson, Nathan Green, Charley Hoffman, Camilo Villegas and Bubba Watson'have made clear impressions.
Dickersons late rally has moved him up to No. 125 on the money list (should he change his name from Bubba to Bubble?); Green has posted four top 5s; Hoffman almost won in Vegas and minds not a bit that many people mistake his flowing blonde locks for lack of talent and resolve. Villegas has big biceps, big talent and a big Q rating. Watson hits the ball out of sight with a driver fitted with a pink shaft.
All in all, a compelling group.
If Immelman beats the rest of them out, he will be the fourth non-American to win Rookie of the Year since the PGA TOUR started the award in 1990.
And heres the most puzzling thing of all: Of the 13 Americans who have been voted Rookie of the Year, only two'Tiger Woods in 1996 and Stewart Cink in 1997'have managed to make a Ryder Cup team. Not one of the last six Rookies of the year'Michael Clark II, Charles Howell III, Jonathan Byrd, Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton or Sean OHair'has played for his country against the Euros.
Noting this disturbing trend is much easier than explaining it. But acknowledging the existence of this disconnect is a first step.
American golf on the mens professional side finds itself sliding into an increasingly desperate void when it comes to developing talented players in their 20s.
The answer is not as obvious as the problem: But maybe we should start with this question:
Why are so many non-American players, who either live in the States; work with American instructors; or have backgrounds at American universities, so much better at absorbing information and golf resources in this country while processing it and translating it into success on golfs biggest stages?
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