World-class stars to be certain. You can bet each and every one of them will lead a tournament, win a tournament (or two, or three), or have a great chance to win a tournament (or four or five) before the kids are out of school for the summer.
But this is a tour with appeal well beyond its ratings-grabbers. So take those kids, a program and a Sharpie and go check out Darren Clarke. He's a fan's man, a guy's guy and apparently ready to be a ratings horse. albeit some 30 pounds lighter. Find Aaron Baddeley, too. You can say the pants on 'Badds.com' are plaids-gone bad if you want, but the young Aussie is a swashbuckling superstar in the making.
Same goes for Hank Kuehne. Make sure you watch him play a par 5. You won't believe how far you have to walk to watch his second shot! Jerry Kelly's a workin' man's pro with arguably the best 'walk' on tour next to Couples. Talk up Rocco Mediate, Scott McCarron or Jeff Sluman if the chance presents itself. Plenty of success among that trio and they take nothing for granted.
And I'm set to give you 10 other players worth following for a few holes like
they're your brother. Ready? Here's the categories:
'THEY'VE EARNED IT'
1. Nick Price - Recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Nick is all class. If you want your son or daughter to watch the definition of 'professional' in person, he's your man. No other reason necessary.
2. Paul Azinger - Who knows how long Zinger can keep his name among the tour's elite. But, like Price, he's one of the great ball-strikers and a true gentleman of his time. He's funnier than you'd imagine and would probably be more well-received than any of the top analysts currently sitting in the booth for the networks.
3. Hal Sutton - This year's American Ryder Cup captain is a guy who's all business on the course and one of the game's classiest off the course. He speaks his mind when asked and makes a whole lot of sense when he does. Taking nothing from any of the captains in recent memory, but the PGA of America hit a home-run with Sutton. Plus, listen close and he might just utter, 'Be the right club TODAY!'
'THEY NEED IT'
4. David Duval - Did you see the two hours he spent with us last year at the PGA Championship? Duval stood up to every question, offered nothing but candid comments and is worthy of every bit of your support. Don't get me wrong here - not every guy would handle things the way he has. His personal life is on the upswing, now let's hope his backswing and downswing find the proper groove.
5. Steve Stricker - Ever been to the Greater Milwaukee Open? I have. And trust me when I say, it's his town! It's been too long since Stricker really impressed us. He won the WGC-Match Play in Australia in 2001 and seemingly hasn't come up from Down Under. A genuine good guy. Nothing phony. Make the SHO and the GHO feel like the GMO, would you please? Let's get him a win.
6. Joe Durant - Multiple wins on the PGA Tour for one big reason. The guy hardly misses a green. Personable and unassuming. A guy you'd have no trouble getting for an autograph and a re-cap of just how he did it that day.
7. Heath Slocum - No wins on the PGA Tour, but don't be surprised when it comes. If Durant is your guy to hit greens, Slocum's the guy you want putting him in the fairway! The next one he misses will be his first! (figuratively speaking)
8. Neal Lancaster - A winner on tour, this guy's so down to earth he's buried up to his waistline! He's a nervous-Nellie who'd be perfect for reality television. Catch him on the tee during a long wait or under a tree after a wayward drive. You'll get your money's worth.
9. Ian Leggett - Winner in Tucson a couple year's back. The Canadian is a former speed skater who won't forget a face or a name or a joke you told a few months back. Some players don't get it when I say he's a cut-up. Try him yourself. In fact, tell him I sent you.
10. Dean Wilson - Do you like a guy who's grinding his tail off but actually looks like he's enjoying every minute of it? Here's your man. Wilson might be best known for playing two days with Annika last year at the Bank of America Colonial. Don't short him. Wilson's got a great smile, a great attitude and he 'gets it,' if you know what I mean.
This list could go on and on - It's the beauty of covering this sport for a living. People always ask me - 'Who's the nicest guy on the PGA Tour?' I like the fact that it takes a while to answer that one.
P.S. How about that Steve Flesch on the Sprint Pre-Game Wednesday night!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann