Hey, Rook: A guide to PGA Tour's newest crop

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2015, 3:38 pm

The FedEx Cup has yet to collect dust on Jordan Spieth's mantle, but a new PGA Tour season is already upon us - and with it a new rookie class is ushered onto the big stage.

Last season's rookie crop included a win from Nick Taylor, a Tour Championship appearance from Daniel Berger and several top finishes from players like Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Zac Blair. This season 17 players have Tour cards for the first time, and 10 of them will be making their debuts at this week's Frys.com Open.

Here is a look at the Tour's newest members, fresh out of orientation and heading to the first tee:

Patton Kizzire

Age: 29

How he got here: Kizzire was the best player this year on the Web.com Tour. The former Auburn standout took a few years to get his footing as a pro, but he won twice this year and is fully exempt as the top earner from last season. He plans to get married Oct. 17 and will make his season debut next week in Las Vegas.

Dawie van der Walt

Age: 32

How he got here: The burly South African has played all over the world, but he finally broke through this year with two wins on the Web.com Tour. He led the circuit in GIR percentage during the regular season and finished third on the money list.

Emiliano Grillo

Age: 23

How he got here: Grillo is part of the celebrated high school graduating class of 2011, and he grew up playing junior golf against the likes of Spieth, Thomas, Berger and Ollie Schneiderjans. The Argentine lost in a playoff at the Puerto Rico Open but capped a run through the Web.com Tour Finals with a win at the season finale earlier this month. He is among the pre-season favorites for Rookie of the Year.

Smylie Kaufman

Age: 23

How he got here: After a successful stint at LSU alongside fellow Tour members John Peterson and Andrew Loupe, Kaufman breezed through his rookie season on the Web.com Tour. He won an event, finished sixth on the regular-season money list and will start this season at No. 13 in the 50-player priority rankings.

Bronson Burgoon

Age: 28

How he got here: Burgoon was one of several players to play in all 25 events on the Web.com Tour, highlighted by his playoff loss in Nova Scotia. He finished 18th on the regular-season money list to earn his card, then boosted his priority ranking with a runner-up finish at the third Web.com Tour Finals event.

Brett Stegmaier

Age: 32

How he got here: After a pair of wrist surgeries, Stegmaier gave up the professional game in 2009 to become an assistant pro. But the fire was rekindled in the former Florida standout, and he returned to the Web.com Tour. He finished seventh in the final regular-season event just to qualify for Finals, then opened the posteseason with back-to-back top-10 finishes to clinch his card.

Rhein Gibson

Age: 29

How he got here: Perhaps best known for shooting a 55 during a mini-tour event, recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the all-time lowest round, Gibson had a solid Web.com Tour season but fell short of earning his card via regular-season earnings. The Aussie opened the Web.com Tour Finals with a missed cut, but he finished T-21 or better in the final three events to seal his card.

Hiroshi Iwata

Age: 34

How he got here: Iwata finished T-3 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, earning enough non-member FedEx Cup points to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals. Once there, he opened with a T-4 finish to earn his card. He also finished T-21 at the PGA Championship (where he shot 63 in Round 2) and T-18 at the Web.com Tour Championship.

Abraham Ancer

Age: 24

How he got here: Ancer played in every event this year on the Web.com Tour, defeating Burgoon in a playoff in Canada for his lone win. He finished No. 11 on the regular-season money list to lock up a promotion to the PGA Tour, but saw his priority ranking fall to No. 31 after missing the cut in all four Finals events.

Harold Varner III

Age: 25

How he got here: Varner finished No. 25 on the regular-season money list, earning his card by a mere $943, becoming the first African-American to earn a PGA Tour card through the developmental circuit. He added a pair of top-25 finishes during the Web.com Tour Finals and will start the season at No. 33 in the priority rankings.

Michael Kim

Age: 22

How he got here: Kim had a decorated college career at Cal, where he was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world and won the Haskins and Nicklaus awards in 2013. After failing to earn his card via the Web.com Tour in 2014, Kim got the job done this past year by finishing No. 13 on the regular-season money list.

Andrew Landry

Age: 28

How he got here: Landry won early in the Web.com Tour season in Colombia, one of five top-25 finishes this season. He finished No. 21 on the regular-season money list to earn his card, but dropped to No. 45 in the priority rankings after his best finish in four Finals events was T-47.

Thomas Aiken

Age: 32

How he got here: The South African has had a decorated career on the European Tour, including three wins, and qualified for the Web.com Tour Finals via non-member FedEx Cup points. While he missed his first three cuts, Aiken finished T-5 at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship, effectively turning one good week into a PGA Tour card.

Lucas Lee

Age: 28

How he got here: Lee had a pair of runner-up finishes among his 17 Web.com Tour starts this season and finished 23rd on the regular-season money list. That was good enough to earn his card, although he didn't earn a dollar in the Web.com Tour Finals after withdrawing from all three events in which he entered.

Rob Oppenheim

Age: 35

How he got here: Oppenheim was the feel-good story from Web.com Tour Finals. After missing his card via regular-season earnings by $943, he appeared edged out again after wrapping up the Web.com Tour Championship. But a late shuffle in the standings gave him the 25th and final card available, as Oppenheim finished $101 ahead of Eric Axley on the Finals money list.

Patrick Cantlay

Age: 23

How he got here: Cantlay actually earned his card in 2013, but a vertebrae fracture has kept him largely sidelined since. He still qualifies as a rookie and has 10 starts left on a major medical extension to earn $624,746 to keep his card.

Joe Affrunti

Age: 34

How he got here: Like Cantlay, Affrunti has struggled with injuries. He earned his card in 2011 but has played sparingly since because of a left shoulder ailment. He has four starts remaining with which to earn $568,234.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”