Wheres the Next Big Wave

By December 24, 2006, 5:00 pm
2007 Big Questions Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is our No. 5 question for the upcoming season.
 
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Ireland this past fall.
 
And no, it wasnt the total beat down Team Europe gave the U.S. in the Ryder Cup. Heck, that train wreck was so bad it was almost funny. Just ask Woosie.
 
No, the unfunny part was the glaring light it shined on the lack of youth being served on the American side.
 
Although U.S. captain Tom Lehman had four rookies on the team, the average age of those four was 31. Not one player on the U.S. squad was in their 20s.
 
Lucas Glover
Lucas Glover finished up ranked 21st on the PGA TOUR money list in 2006.
So this became the question: Are Americans just going through a phase or is this cause for alarm?
 
It depends on who you ask, of course, but Jim Furyk doesnt seem too concerned.
 
It's cyclical. This is the same story two years ago, it was the young guns. It's like every odd year we have the young guns story and there's these five guys that come out and win a tournament, and all of a sudden, look out Tiger and Phil because these guys are going to be kicking for the next three years, and the stories go that way,' Furyk said.
 
Then all of a sudden two years later there's not a guy in the top 50 under 30 and the world is coming to an end. There's no reason to really get too, too upset or too excited about things because things aren't usually as good as they seem and they're never as bad as they seem, also. Just kind of sit back and relax and think the whole subject over. I think we have quite a few very good young players in the U.S.
 
Good players maybe. Very good young players? Not so fast, Mr. Furyk. Like he mentioned, there is a no denying the fact that at the moment there is just one American ' Lucas Glover - in the top-50. Then drop all the way down to 69th for the second 20something American ' Sean OHair.
 
Tiger Woods didnt help the young set by what he was able to accomplish in his 20s, which of course leads to unreasonable comparisons. But looking to the past, it used to be the norm for the young guns to have better starts to their careers.
 
Names like Tom Watson, Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw all had racked up multiple wins before the 26th birthdays. Today, only Ben Curtis and Jonathan Byrd have more than one victory in their 20s. And those two names dont quite stack up against the international likes of Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman and Paul Casey.
 
Multiple theories abound as to why international players in their 20s are having more success than their American counterparts.
 
I think one of the main differences between the two is travel, says Golf Channel and CBS analyst Peter Oosterhuis. The international players travel all across the world at such a young age in order to play. They turn pro at an early age and travel all over the world. This might help to toughen them up.
 
There is also a money factor, adds Oosterhuis. There is so much money in todays game that it could lead to a lack of desire. With all of the money that can be made, you really have to have lofty goals in order to stay competitive. You have to have a drive that goes beyond making a lot of money.
 
Troy Matteson
Troy Matteson closed the season with a victory and four other top-10 finishes.
And boy, is there plenty of money. The total purse on the PGA TOUR the year Tiger arrived in 1996 was $70,700,000. Now the number has exploded to the tune of a staggering $260,000,000.
 
With all that cash on the table, its also quite possible that many of the aging stars have decided to overhaul their training regimes to stay in shape and thus stay competitive. Plus, in golf, experience might possibly be the most important club in the bag, something the 20-years-olds dont yet quite have a handle on.
 
But there is at least hope, and it mostly comes in the form of raw power: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Lucas Glover and Troy Matteson. All won over a $1 million this past season and all hit it a ton, especially Watson and Holmes, who finished the year ranked 1-2 in driving distance on the PGA TOUR.
 
Holmes was a four-time All-American at the University of Kentucky, earned medalist honors at the 2005 Q-school and quickly won in his rookie season with a dominant seven-stroke win at the FBR Open. His length also enabled him to lead the TOUR in total eagles.
 
And he doesnt shy away from knowing what his strength is.
 
A lot of people like to see people hit it a long ways. Bubba Watson hits it long, John Daly, Tiger Woods. Everybody likes to see somebody hit it a long ways because a lot of the fans, they can't do that, said Holmes. Most of them, if they play, they've made a 30-footer or something like that. It's something they've done. But they can't hit it 340, 350, whatever.
 
Enter Watson, he of the 319.6 yard average off the tee. A Nationwide Tour graduate, he too started the season strong with a T-4 at the Sony Open and a third-place showing at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. Despite finishing near the bottom of the driving accuracy rankings, he did enjoy a 100-hole bogey-free streak during the season.
 
The abovementioned Glover had a storied college career and has steadily risen in each of his three years on TOUR. In 2005, Glover really made a name for himself when his holed a 100-foot bunker shot on the final hole to win the FUNAI Classic at Disney. This season, although without a win, the 27-year-old finished 21st on the final money list due to eight top-10 results.
 
And then theres Matteson, probably the least known of this group, but perhaps the hottest heading into next year. After setting the Nationwide Tour record for winnings in 2005, the former Georgia Tech star struggled for most of his rookie season before catching fire near the end of the year with a pair of back-to-back top-10s at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic and the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.
 
Suddenly armed with confidence to go along with his shot-making, Matteson then hit the jackpot, winning the Frys.com Open in Vegas for his maiden PGA TOUR win. A second-place finish the following week at Disney and another top-10 at the Chrysler Championship shot Matteson all the way up to an impressive 36th on the money list.
 
But will any of these 20somethings continue to make the progression to eventually make it into the top-10 in the world, or make a Ryder or Presidents Cup team? Or will someone like Sean OHair or Ryan Moore be the ones that make it near the top?
 
Those are questions that can only be answered out on the fairways in the next year or two. And hopefully, for the Americans' sake, sooner rather than later.
 
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    Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

    By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

    GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

    Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

    Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

    Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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    Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

    With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

    Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

    It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

    The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

    Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

    In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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    Thompson bounces back from rule violation

    By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

    If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

    If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

    Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

    Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

    After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

    She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

    If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

    Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

    The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

    The story here isn’t really the penalty.


    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


    It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

    That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

    Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

    That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

    That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

    So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

    With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

    We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

    Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

    Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

    Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

    Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

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    Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

    By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

    INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

    When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

    She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

    “I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

    If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

    The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

    But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

    “I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”


    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


    Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

    She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

    The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

    She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

    “I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

    She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

    Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

    “Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

    Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

    Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

    “I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”