Scott Garcia set standard for players in their 20s
That doesn’t make him old, nor does it make him irrelevant.
If anything, it should make all those kids behind him – and there are more of them every year – take stock of what the Scott has done before turning 30, and realize that great play is measured by more than one year, much less one tournament.
Neither should great play be measured against Tiger Woods, who set the bar unreasonably high.
Scott’s 36-hole sprint in San Antonio on Sunday was his 17th victory worldwide, with seven of those on the PGA Tour (that doesn’t include a playoff win at Riviera that was shortened to 36 holes because of rain).
He has won in every full season as a pro. He has climbed as high as No. 3 in the world and played on four Presidents Cup teams. And while he has not so much as contended in a major – a glaring weakness on his resume – he is the youngest to win The Players Championship.
Most of that was forgotten over the last year when Scott endured the worst slump of his career. He pulled himself out of it on his own, however, winning the Australian Open and Texas Open over the last six months.
“I definitely questioned myself at times last year whether I was a great player or not, and I still feel I am,” Scott said. “It’s hard to maintain that for 20 years. I did a good job of it for a long time. I mean, everyone has fairly short memories in this game. You’ve got to be out there all the time to be talked about.
“Hopefully,” he added, “I can keep going with this form and they can talk about me as one of the great players in the game.”
Scott still has much to achieve before that, although he is off to a good start.
It’s still not as good as Sergio Garcia, who left his 20s in January and is trying to find his game.
Garcia and Scott have set a standard that young players like Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and perhaps even Rickie Fowler should try to match.
Garcia has won 19 times around the world and reached No. 2 in the world ranking only 14 months ago. He starred on the first of five Ryder Cup teams when he was 19, the same year he made Woods sweat down the stretch in the PGA Championship at Medinah. And while he also lacks confirmation that only a major can bring, Garcia at least has been a runner-up three times and has nine finishes in the top five.
“I feel like there’s no doubt I could have done better,” Garcia said. “But people don’t realize that it is a pretty good career.”
Garcia and Scott don’t get enough credit in small part because they have yet to win a major.
And in large part because of Woods.
Even as Garcia was steadily improving and usually producing, his feats were dwarfed by a player from his own generation. Woods continues to chase the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus and the 82 PGA Tour victories of Sam Snead. Even more out of reach are the records that Woods established before turning 30.
He won 56 times on the PGA Tour (64 titles worldwide), 10 major championship and the career Grand Slam – twice. He was No. 1 in the world for all but 101 weeks from when he turned pro until he celebrated his 30th birthday.
“It doesn’t matter what you do,” Garcia said. “Everybody is going to be compared with Tiger because he’s the best. People look at Tiger, and he makes it look – at times – easy. So everybody thinks it’s easy. I’m not unhappy with what I’ve done throughout these 11 years. It’s just a matter of realizing that you can’t compare with him.”
Even as he tries to work himself out of a funk – he has fallen to No. 30 in the world and last won 20 months ago – Garcia takes pride in keeping himself among the top 10 in the world for most of his career.
“It’s not that easy to keep it going,” he said. “That’s why what Tiger has done is so impressive. Being in the top 10 or the top 15 in the world is a big deal. And it’s definitely getting harder to stay there. With the young guys coming up, it gets tougher every year.”
The player who gets Woods’ attention at the moment is Ishikawa, the 18-year-old phenom who already has seven victories in Japan and picked up his last win by shooting a 58. McIlroy created quite the buzz with a 62 in the final rough at tough Quail Hollow, only to miss the cut a week later. Fowler has the talent, although it’s hard to put him in any conversation without a victory.
All three of Kim’s victories have come against strong fields. Not to be overlooked is Johnson, still only 25, with PGA Tour victories in each of his three years on tour.
There is more young talent than ever before.
Will any of them ever be as good as Woods? That will take more than one or two years to determine.
The first step is to show they can be as good as Garcia and Scott before they leave their 20s.
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''
Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss
Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.
Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.
"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."
At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.
Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.
"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."
Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win
South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.
Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.
Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.
“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”
Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.
“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”
Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.
“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”