Story 9 Young Guns Firing

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Top 10 StoriesAnthony Kim was fidgeting nervously, his attention split between his cell phone and the flat-screen television mounted on the wall of the Dove Mountain clubhouse, when the imposing figure of Tiger Woods drifted down the hallway.
 
You good? asked the world No. 1 on his way to the first tee for his opening-round match against J.B. Holmes at this years WGC-Match Play Championship.
 
All good, Kim smiled.
 

Coming of Age

20-something winners on the PGA Tour in 2008
 
D.J. Trahan, 27 ' Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
J.B. Holmes, 25 ' FBR Open
Sean OHair, 25 ' PODS Championship
Andres Romero, 26 ' Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Johnson Wagner, 28 ' Shell Houston Open
Trevor Immelman, 28 ' Masters
Adam Scott, 27 ' Byron Nelson Championship
Anthony Kim, 22 ' Wachovia Championship
Sergio Garcia, 28 ' The Players Championship
Anthony Kim, 23 ' AT&T National
Chez Reavie, 26 ' Canadian Open
Parker McLachlin, 29 ' Reno-Tahoe Open
Camilo Villegas, 26 ' BMW Championship
Camilo Villegas, 26 ' Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson, 24 ' Turning Stone Resort Champ.
 
' Rex Hoggard


Its well documented that Kim used Woods renowned work ethic and dedication as a model to break out of what the second-year Tour player described as a self-destructive lifestyle. These days its easy to imagine Woods eyeing Kim, the media-friendly front man of what has become a productive and promising youthful crop.
 
Twentysomethings accounted for 15 of the 48 Tour titles in 2008, with Kim and Colombias Camilo Villegas leading the way with two keepsakes apiece. The average age of a Tour champion was 33.5 and more titles went to players in their 20s than in their 40s (nine).
 
Day care may not have replaced experience on Tour, but in 2008 the pendulum swayed further in the direction of youth than at any time during the Woods era. And at no time were the fresh faced more fearless than during a seven-week early-summer stretch.
 
Twentysomethings won six of seven events starting with Andres Romeros victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Included in that run was Trevor Immelmans Masters breakthrough, where the South African became the first 20-something not named Woods to win a major since Geoff Ogilvy was the last man standing in 2006 at Winged Foot.
 
It may not be the dominant youth movement the late Earl Woods once predicted, but some consider 2008 the first step in a changing of the guard.
 
Just look at what Camilo has done for the FedEx Cup series, two back-to-back victories. Now that should give him a lot of energy to take into 2009, Greg Norman said.
 
If I'm Tiger sitting there, I'm going, wow, now these kids are going to be more enthusiastic and more confident, and the game of golf is going to be the great benefactor here because now you've probably got another five, six players that can step up to the plate. . . now you've got a lot of young players out there who are really ready, willing and able to pick up their confidence and really go for it.
 
The under-30 set put a punctuation mark on the season at the Ryder Cup, where the United States side featured three players in their 20s, including Kim, Hunter Mahan ' who did not win in 2008 but finished 30th in earnings ' and Holmes. The threesome combined for a 6-1-5 record at Valhalla, including tree-rattling Sunday singles routs against Garcia (Kim, 5 and 4) and Soren Hansen (Holmes, 2 and 1),
 
I think there's some younger guys who are really stepping up and winning some golf tournaments and are going to have the opportunity to play some golf against (Woods) and maybe contend in some more golf tournaments, said Kim, who, at 22, was the youngest winner on Tour in 08.
 
Maybe even more encouraging for those who have awaited a fresh crop of Tiger challengers is the new faces who emerged in 2008. Joining Adam Scott, 27; Garcia, 28; Kim and Villegas in the winners circle this year were Romero, Johnson Wagner, 28, and hard-swinging Dustin Johnson, the 24-year-old who broke out of a late-season slump to win the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
 
And the list of promising players in their 20s who didnt win in 08 gives more weight to the notion that the Tour is more Gen X than Geritol.
 
Woods injury-induced midseason hiatus may partially explain the surge in youthful champions. More measured expectations have also helped the up-and-coming adjust to life on Tour.
 
Until the new guy reached that level they were touted as the next Tiger Woods and there was a lot of money thrown at them and we had a succession of underachieving stars, said Rocky Hambric, Johnsons manager with Hambric Sports. Since then companies have cut back how much they pay and people have been less willing to jump on the bandwagon.
 
Younger champions is a trend that will likely continue in 2009, but the U.S. Golf Associations plan to dial back grooves may slow the climb for some of the twentysomethings.
 
The return to V grooves, which are designed to restore the challenge of playing shots from the rough, will begin with the 2010 season and will force players to learn a new skill set.
 
Some of the young guys will have to learn about flier lies and what shots to hit which they havent had to learn, Hambric said. That will probably set the trend back a little bit.
 
For now, however, the twentysomethings have arrived. Or, as Kim might offer, its all good.
 
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