Rookies are All the Rage on PGA TOUR
The most compelling rookies are on the PGA Tour, not the LPGA.
David Toms learned about them quickly. Already a winner at the Sony Open, he was in contention two weeks later at the FBR Open, only three shots out of the lead going into the final round.
'I was there with a chance to win,' he said. 'I wasn't playing against Tiger, I was playing against Holmes and Villegas and some young guys. I felt like I was going to play well that day. I just didn't perform.'
One of the youngsters to whom he referred was J.B. Holmes, a 23-year-old rookie from Kentucky who overpowered the TPC of Scottsdale, wore out his wedge and had a superb week with his putter. That's usually an unbeatable combination, and it sent Holmes to a seven-shot victory.
The other rookie was Camilo Villegas, a 24-year-old from Colombia who looks like he belongs in one of those men's perfume ads found in fashion magazines.
Villegas was noticed early by playing with Michelle Wie in his 2006 debut at the Sony Open, shooting a 64 in the second round despite a hang nail so painful he nearly withdrew. He tied for second in Phoenix, then dazzled at Doral with his natty attire (all white one day, orange shoes the next) and dynamic game to finish one shot behind Tiger Woods.
Fans are paying attention to the rookies for various reasons.
Holmes was the first player in 23 years to go from college to medalist at Q-school, with a stop in Chicago along the way to help the United States win back the Walker Cup. He wears a black glove, closes his eyes and recites a Bible verse to focus, then shows no mercy on the golf ball.
He is not flashy or full of himself. If he played quarterback, he would be Troy Aikman.
Villegas is all style, from his Johan Lindeberg wardrobe to his Cirque du Soleil style of reading putts. He flexes his right foot under his body to go horizontal, almost like he's doing a push-up, to get a level look at the break in the green. It works for him, even if the putting stroke has looked shaky at times.
The best measure is their results.
Holmes already has locked up a two-year exemption by winning in Phoenix, and at No. 10 on the money list, he has a decent chance of qualifying for the Masters.
'I like his game; I really do,' Brad Faxon said with an appreciative smile. 'He's going to be good for the tour.'
Faxon got a close look at Riviera when they were grouped together the first two days. Holmes wasn't at his best on the greens, although his game got Faxon's attention. The eye-opener came on the par-4 fifth hole, where most players hit 3-wood or a hybrid to keep it short of a steep hill that separates the fairway.
Holmes hit driver.
'It's soaking wet, and he hit it down the fairway at the bottom of the hill,' Faxon said. 'And it backed up.'
On the strength of his two runner-up finishes, Villegas already has earned $850,831 and is 14th on the money list. Not only is he assured of keeping his card -- the immediate goal for most rookies -- he has an outside chance this week of getting into The Players Championship, and perhaps the Masters.
'He's an incredible player and very likely to win this year, and he'll be a strong presence,' Phil Mickelson said.
They are the two that stand out.
For sheer entertainment value, meet 27-year-old Bubba Watson, he of the hot pink shaft in his driver and tee shots that don't just go to the moon, they orbit.
Watson has plenty of showmanship. At Doral, he was launching drives over the back end of the range, over buildings that house Jim McLean's golf school and into a pond on the other side that no one knew was there. Then he would stop, and gaze around to see who was watching.
Steve Williams was. Woods' caddie sat on a cooler witnessing the power display, shaking his head in disbelief.
Watson is first in driving distance and dead last in driving accuracy, although he shows some restraint on the golf course. He made it through Tucson without a bogey, the first player without a bogey in a 72-hole PGA Tour event since Lee Trevino in 1974. Watson tied for third that week, and coupled with his fourth-place showing at the Sony Open, has $424,112 (No. 34 on the money list) and is well on his way to keeping his card.
'I see success as when you start winning,' Watson said. 'Right now, I'm a nobody in the golfing industry because I haven't won. Third place isn't looked upon highly unless you're Michelle Wie.'
Two months don't make a season. Success is better measured over the course of the year, when they are tested by the week-to-week grind and a variety of courses.
Even so, these three players are part of a broader trend geared toward youth.
Four of the top 10 players on the money list are in their 20s, led by 29-year-old Rory Sabbatini and 28-year-old Geoff Ogilvy, the Aussie who recently captured his first World Golf Championship. Honda Classic winner Luke Donald is 28, while Holmes won't turn 24 until the end of April.
Two others in the top 10 -- Woods (30) and Chad Campbell (31) -- can hardly be considered ancient.
A year ago, 23-year-old Sean O'Hair won the John Deere Classic and finished 18th on the money list, and UNLV grad Ryan Moore became the first player since Woods to earn his PGA Tour card without having to go to Q-school.
Whether they eventually can challenge Woods remains to be seen.
For now, however, they're worth watching.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'
WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.
It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.
Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.
''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''
The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.
It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.
''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.
''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''
A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.
The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.
''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''
Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.
''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.
''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''
Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.
Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.
''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''
Romo rallies to win American Century Championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.
''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''
Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.
Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''
Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.
Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.
Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.
The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.
Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.
Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.
Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.
Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.
He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.
His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.
The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.
His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.
McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.
He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.
Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship
Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.
The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.
The week was more than nostalgic.
It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.
In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.
“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”
Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.
“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”
Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.
The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.
“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”
Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.
“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”
She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.
“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.
At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.
With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.
This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.
“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”
Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.
“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.
In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.