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Keep Your Eye On These Big Six In 2001

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Forget Tiger. Forget the Mickelsons, the Suttons, the Duvals and the Loves. This story is about the young guys who will impact the PGA Tour, those you may not have heard of, those you definitely will hear of in the future. These are the ones who have sterling futures ahead of them, the ones who will fill newspaper pages next year.
 
Mike Weir will fill most of them. The 30-year-old Canadian started the year strong, finishing in the top 10 at Mercedes, Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Bay Hill. He finished fourth at Memorial, then slumped the second half until the Tour reached the Michelob Championship. A second there started him again and, going against the best in the game at the WGC-American Express Championship, he put it all together for a win.
 

Weir is a left-hander, joining Phil Mickelson and Steve Flesch as top-30 golfers who swing from the left side. His per-tournament average payday was $90,933, allowing him to finish No. 6 on the money list with $2,547,829. The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder is known as a dangerous putter who finished eighth on the list in that category.
 
Stewart Cink appears ready for a big season after three years of knocking on the door. He's a big, 6-foot-4 inch belter who averages 278 yards per drive, and this year he averaged $80,363 per tourney, $2.1 million in his 27 starts.

Cink, a Georgia Tech grad, won three times on the Nike Tour (now Buy.Com) in 1996 and appears ready to become a consistent winner on the PGA Tour. His final-round scoring average of 69.29, as well as his par-3 scoring which ranked second on Tour, make him a promising star of the future. He won the MCI Classic against a good field, shooting a 65 the last day to outduel Ernie Els, Davis Love, Tom Lehman and Vijay Singh. He birdied three of the last four holes to win going away and kept up the good final-round scoring the rest of the year.
 

Notah Begay III was known primarily as Tiger Woods' college teammate before 1999, but he has shown himself ready for the next level of competition. It's a little difficult to see how he does it - his highest statistic is 75th in fairways hit - but he averaged $75,805 for his 24 events this year, $1.8 total. He slumped the first half of the year before hitting his stride the week after the U.S. Open. He won the FedEx St. Jude Classic, repeated the following week at the Canon Greater Hartford Open, and finished out of the top 20 only twice from there until the end of the year.
 
Sergio Garcia - enough said. Only 20 years old, a Spaniard in the best Seve Ballesteros tradition, Garcia belongs to both the European and U.S. Tours. He averaged almost $66,000 every time he went out in America in 2000, and that was without a
single win. His biggest victory, against Woods in a televised event late in the season, was not official money.
 
But Garcia was long - 278 yards per drive; accurate - 26th on Tour in fairways hit; and an outstanding putter - fourth among Tour regulars. Add another category - winner - as soon as the next year rolls around.
 
David Toms has been around a long time, since 1992. However, at the age of 33, he's becoming statistically one of the best in the game. He finished 10th on the money list last year, dropped to 15th this year, but his $2 million won included $64,582 every time he entered a tournament.
 
Toms is a solid player, all the way through every club. His 11th place finish in putting is particularly noteworthy. While he failed to win a tournament in 2000, he finished in the top 10 13 times, the top 20 21 times. He will win for the fourth time in the near future, everyone believes.
 

And then there's Flesch, another left-hander who finished 13th in the money. Flesch played in a lot of tournaments (32), but made a lot on money ($2 million). That's an average of $63,305 for every tournament he played.
 
Flesch is also an exceptional putter, seventh best on the Tour, and a much better-than-average driver (279 yards). He was second this year on par-4 birdies, but his final-round scoring average let him down. He was 53rd in that category.
 
One thing that was impressive was the manner in which Flesch improved at the end of the season. He finished tied for 61st in the SEI Pennsylvania tournament, but then tied for 27th at the Buick Challenge, tied for 12th at the Michelob, tied for ninth at Las Vegas and placed second at Disney. Flesch finished with a 15th-place finish in the Tour Championship.

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