Which rookie will have the biggest '12 impact?

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2012, 2:00 pm

New names, new faces. They're a big part of the delicious anticipation of a new season. Some will remain anonymous. But others will become the household names of tomorrow. We asked our senior writers to predict which rookies on any tour will make the biggest impact in 2012.

By REX HOGGARD

The highest-profile rookie in 2012 will be Lexi Thompson. Not since Michelle Wie has there been a newcomer with as much potential and pressure, but that’s a cautionary tale for another day.

For pure rooting potential, to say nothing of playing abilities, we’ll take Erik Compton as the “newcomer” to watch. We add the quotations based on Compton’s age (32) and PGA Tour history (29 starts as a professional).

Even Compton doubted his status as a rookie until it was verified by Tour officials. “Great,” was his less-than-ambiguous text message when he was informed of the good news.

The Tour’s curious criteria for identifying rookies aside, Compton’s story has the ability to transcend sport. He was 9 years old when he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, has survived two heart transplants and may have only one chance to leave his mark on the Tour.

Although he has the game to compete at the highest level, the rigors of 72 holes take a toll which at least partially explains why it took him so long to earn a Tour card.

But with full status this season Compton will be able to set a schedule that will not be as physically demanding. He’s also enjoyed his first true “offseason” in years thanks to his 13th-place finish on the Nationwide Tour money list.

He may not be the most high-profile rookie in 2012. He may not be a rookie at all by many standards, but a solid season for Compton would be unforgettable.


Jason Kokrak

By JASON SOBEL

A few years ago, I covered a late-season event on the Nationwide Tour and took an informal straw poll of more than a dozen players on which of their peers would become the next star on the next level. The unanimous answer was Jason Day – and, of course, those guys were right. Day has transitioned from the developmental circuit to one of the world’s top10 players.

There’s a similar groundswell of support entering this season for another Jason, as fellow players have been unilaterally impressed with Jason Kokrak.

Coming off a year in which he won two Nationwide titles and finished fourth on the final money list, the former Xavier University golfer owns a game that should translate well to the big leagues. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the masher led the tour by averaging 318.6 yards per drive. We’ve seen guys who can bang it like that in the past, but they’re usually wild. Kokrak, on the other hand, found more than 63 percent of fairways, ranking in the top half of the tour.

We won’t see another rookie class in 2012 like we did a year ago, but we may never see a rookie class like that again. Last season’s crop included major champions in Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley, plus four other PGA Tour winners.

This year’s class should be led by Nationwide promotions Danny Lee and Ted Potter Jr., and Q-School grads Noh Seung-Yul and Harris English. I’ll take Kokrak in a close race over those guys, based largely on the gushing reports from his fellow pros last season.


Danny Lee

By RANDALL MELL

Danny Lee’s bounce-back continues in 2012.

Look for Lee, 21, to distinguish himself in the newest class of PGA Tour rookies.

The South Korean Kiwi got off to a rough start in his professional career, but he showed last year that he’s on the rise again.

After becoming the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur at 18 years and one month in 2008, Lee dazzled us again six months later, still as an amateur. He became the youngest winner of a European Tour event, taking home the Johnnie Walker Classic trophy.

Born in South Korea, and later gaining New Zealand citizenship while growing up there, Lee didn’t exactly take the professional game by storm. After turning pro following the Masters in ’09, he fell short in a bid to win a PGA Tour card through sponsor exemptions. His pro career took a dismal turn when he failed to advance past the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School later that year.

The old spark was back in Lee’s game on the Nationwide Tour last year. Despite wrist problems that kept him out for a month last summer, Lee still earned his PGA Tour card, finishing sixth on the Nationwide Tour money list. He claimed his first victory as a pro (WNB Classic) in October. He led the Nationwide Tour in scoring (68.98), birdie average (4.66 per round) and top-10 finishes (9). He was sixth in putting and 12th in greens in regulation. Those numbers make Lee a formidable addition to the PGA Tour this year.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”