Amateur Champions Struggling in Woods Wake

By Mercer BaggsAugust 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 U.S. AmateurAt the Western Open, the amateurs dont practice alongside the professionals. The range is vast, creating segregation, de facto or de jure, between the two ' big bags to the left, small bags to the right.
 
It appeared, however, the Tuesday before the start of the tournament that one of the wannabes had decided to integrate with the pros.
 
He had this yellow, plastic device screwed to the grip of his club. You know, the one that is supposed to meet the left forearm on the takeaway and again on the follow-through.
 
He used this amateurish contraption on just about every club in his bag. He hit ball after ball after ball. Some would fade a little to the right, some would tail off to the left, and, occasionally, some would go straight.
 
But this guy had a big bag, a tour bag; one with his name on it, which read: David Gossett.
 
This week marks the five-year anniversary of Gossetts triumph in the U.S. Amateur Championship. At the time, he was just 20, the top amateur in the country ' full of promise and potential.
 
Now well, theres still promise and plenty of potential. But long gone are the days when he headed the class.
 
For the queasy or faint of heart, you may want to skip this paragraph ' its unsettling. Gossett has played 16 tournaments this year; hes made two cuts. Hes totaled $21,250 and ranks 238th on the money list. He has but five sub-par rounds on the season, and only one in the 60s.
 
The numbers ' his individual statistical rankings ' only get worse from there. But thats enough salt in the wounds.
 
Gossetts a good guy, very approachable. He doesnt need anyone to tell him what his numbers are this season; he knows them well enough. Still, he doesnt get angry or even defensive when you bring up these little devils.
 
Its never fun to go out and not score well, he said. Ive been working on my swing a little, on my takeaway. And Ive been working on my mind a little bit ' trying to slow down, trying not to put too much pressure on myself.
 
Gossett is half a decade removed from his Amateur victory, so there is no external or internal pressure to live up to that accomplishment.
 
The stress he is shouldering is derived from trying to maintain his livelihood. A victory in the 2001 John Deere Classic gave him a two-year exemption on tour. He finished 84th in earnings (with the top 125 gaining full exempt status) a year ago to keep his card this season.
 
On his current path, he will have to rely on his Past Champion status to play a limited number of tour events in 2005.
 
Gossett, however, is not alone in his struggles. Its been a little feast and a lot of famine for U.S. Amateur champions since Tiger Woods exited the amateur ranks.
 
Matt Kuchar, in 1997, was the first Amateur champion Post Tiger. He didnt turn professional until 2000, and then earned his PGA Tour card the following year through sponsors exemptions. In his first full season on tour he won the Honda Classic and finished 49th on the money list.
 
Armed with a two-year exemption, he made only eight of 23 cuts in 2003, and has made eight of 18 cuts thus far this season. Hes in danger of finishing outside the top 125 on the money list, but is in a better position than Gossett, at 131st on the money list.
 
After Kuchar, there was Kuehne.
 
Hank Kuehne stumbled around developmental tours upon winning the 1998 U.S. Am., capturing the Canadian Tours Order of Merit in 2002. He, like Kuchar, earned his PGA Tour card by playing well as a sponsors exemption, in 2003. After a rough start in 04, in which his missed 10 of his first 15 cuts, Kuehne is likely to be fully exempt next season as well. He has cashed a check in four of his last five tournaments to complement his fifth-place finish earlier in the season at the Nissan Open.
 
When you win the Amateur, youre expectations grow, Kuehne said. You feel you can play better and that you should play better. It takes a while to meet those expectations.
 
Ive been working on my swing, finally got everything back in order. Now its just taking it from the range to the golf course and letting it happen.
 
Gossett was next in line. He shot 59 in the fourth round of the 2000 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, but finished tied for 68th and had to settle for a spot on the Nationwide Tour. Splitting his time between the Majors and the Minors in 2001, he won the John Deere to cement his PGA Tour status. That status is now as sound as gravel.
 
The goals are still there, but you have to be realistic to how youre playing right now ' you have to adjust them, Gossett said. My No. 1 goal right now is to gain some confidence, to get some momentum out there on the course. I need to make some cuts, do well, and hopefully from there Ill make some top-10s.
 
Amazingly, not a single U.S. Amateur champion since Gossett has made a top-10 on the PGA Tour. Not a one.
 
Jeff Quinney (2000 champion), Ben Bubba Dickerson (2001), Ricky Barnes (2002) and Nick Flanagan (2003) have played in a total of 48 PGA Tour events; theyve combined to make 12 cuts, with Barnes tie for 14th in this years FBR Open the best finish, by far, among the four.
 
Quinney is partially exempt on the Nationwide Tour, having made six cuts in 13 starts this year. Hes 80th on the money list, with the top 20 getting PGA Tour cards for 2005.
 
Dickerson quit school at the University of Florida five months after his Amateur victory, turned professional after competing in the 2002 Masters (he could have played in the U.S. Open and British Open had he remained an amateur), and has since been searching for a permanent place to play. Hes competed on several mini-tours, including the Hooters Tour, and has played in a handful of European and Challenge tour events.
 
Barnes, likewise, has logged plenty of Frequent Flier miles.
 
It looked so promising for the swashbuckling blond, who drew Arnold Palmer comparisons, when he finished 21st in the 2003 Masters, bettering playing companion Woods over the first two days. He then made the cut at the U.S. Open, where he posted three rounds of 71 or better at Olympia Fields.
 
But, he didnt do enough with his sponsors exemptions in 2003 or 2004 to earn his PGA Tour card. This year alone, hes played seven PGA Tour events (making two cuts), four events in Europe (making one cut), two tournaments in Australia (tying for eighth in the ANZ Championship) and two tournaments on the Nationwide Tour (making both cuts).
 
'I expect a lot from myself,' Barnes said. 'I expected to get right through Q-School, be out here (on the PGA Tour), kind of make my mark right away. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
 
'You know, just made the hill a little bit taller and steeper.'
 
Flanagan, who became the first Australian in 100 years to win the U.S. Amateur, has missed the cut in all six of his PGA Tour starts this season, but has had moderate success overseas. He tied for third in the ANZ Championship and tied for 32nd in the Heineken Classic, both Australasian and European tour co-sanctioned events. At the Heineken, while paired with Ernie Els and Adam Scott, he opened in 67 ' the same day Els fired 60.
 
Theres no doubt that hes good enough, Scott said of his countryman. But as long as he just enjoys himself, doesnt pressure himself to be the next Tiger Woods, hell be fine.
 
Winning the Amateur has probably made my expectations bigger, because Im playing different tournaments ' bigger tournaments than I would have been. But I cant really change the way I approach everything. Im just trying to do what Ive been doing, said Flanagan, who didnt really get interested in the game until he watched Woods win the 1997 Masters.
 
A lot is expected of a U.S. Amateur champion ' particularly in the wake of Woods, who helped amplify the events popularity. There are public and personal expectations to turn amateur accomplishment into professional proficiency.
 
Woods, of course, is a truly unique individual, meaning his followers certainly shouldnt be judged by comparison. Some will flourish, others will founder ' its just the way it is, and nothing new.
 
Long before Tigers Triple, there was a list of past champions ranging from Hall of Fame to Hall of Who? Tiger's successors are still trying to find their place somewhere in between.
 
This game is a fickle game, said Gossett. It comes and goes. Itll come again.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Amateur Championship
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

    As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


    Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.




    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: Woods' message to young rivals: Bring it on!

    By Randall MellAugust 13, 2018, 11:24 pm

    Bring it on!

    OK, I’m not fluent in body language, and maybe that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods was communicating with his exuberant fist pump after closing out a 64 Sunday at the PGA Championship, but there was so much hope in the excitement he let loose with his closing birdie.

    Hope beyond what was still going on behind him at Bellerive.

    Hope in what lies ahead.

    Bring it on!

    You know Woods wanted Brooks Koepka to hear his legion roar, to let Koepka know he better not stumble back there behind him. You know he also wanted Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and all today’s stars to hear all those roars, to let them know he’s finally fit for a fight again.

    Bring it on!

    Yes, Koepka refused to flinch, and Woods ultimately finished second, but that rollicking last fist pump told you what Sunday’s finish meant to Woods.

    He’s going to win again.

    That’s the confidence won closing the way he did, celebrating at the 72nd hole in a way we’ve only ever seen him do on his way to hoisting a trophy.

    Because that’s where he is headed again.

    He can and will win again.

    Bring it on!

    That’s the thrilling promise Sunday brought to all of golf.

    Koepka wasn’t about to get out of Woods’ way, in the fashion the players of another era seemed to do when weekend roars preceded a Woods stampede. Koepka did today’s players a favor sending his own message. He was a rock. He didn’t flinch and didn’t fold in the wake of all those deafening Tiger roars.


    PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    If Koepka flinches Sunday, it sends the wrong message to all these other young guys. It gives them all pause. It makes them all wonder if Tiger’s aura really does come with some unfair advantage, with a one- or two-shot advantage in his ability to ride the noisy chaos to heights they can’t. We heard more than one young star complain this spring about the boisterous crowds that followed Woods.

    These young guys don’t need that in their heads.

    So Koepka didn’t back down, and Johnson, Thomas, McIlroy, Spieth, Day, Fowler and Rahm aren’t likely to, either.

    That’s the great fun Woods’ comeback brings. The battles all these young guys say they want with the legend are real possibilities now, with all those Tiger birdies and Tiger roars confirming Sunday that he is ready to begin giving them what they want.

    “I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger,” Jordan Spieth said during The Open last month. “Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true, just to have the opportunity.”

    The wonder in Sunday’s finish is that Woods was so good spraying his driver all over the place early in the round. Back in the day, he would have said he shot that 64 with his “B” game. You won’t hear him say things like that now, but the beauty in the round was knowing how he may have turned a 70 into a 64. It was in knowing how much better he still might get on these old legs.

    It’s a shame we have to wait eight months for the Masters to see if his run of T-6 at The Open and 2nd at the PGA Championship continues on a majestic trajectory, because the message I heard in his last fist pump is still ringing in my ears.

    Bring it on!

    Getty Images

    Eight Men, Four Women Advance to "Tennessee Big Shots," Airing Monday, Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. ET Live on Golf Channel

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 13, 2018, 7:25 pm

    Airing Live on Golf Channel, Fourth Televised Event of 2018 is Final Tour Stop Prior to Season-Culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship

    Field Boasts Six of Top-10 in World Led by No. 1 Justin James, Three-Time 2018 Winner Will Hogue; & Two-time World Champion Phillis Meti

    The World Long Drive Association (WLDA) season continues tonight with the Tennessee Big Shots benefiting Niswonger Children’s Hospital, airing live at 6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The live telecast will showcase the eight men and four women having advanced from preliminary rounds where they’ll compete in single-elimination matches until respective champions are crowned. The Open (Men’s) Division field will feature six of the top-nine competitors in the World Long Drive rankings, including No. 1 Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) along with Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.), who has accumulated three wins to-date in 2018. The Women’s Division will feature two-time world champion Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand) and Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.,) who won the Clash in the Canyon earlier this year. Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.,) also is returning from injury in her first competition of 2018 in what will be a de-facto “home game,” while LPGA Tour player Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) is the fourth semifinalist, competing in her first-ever WLDA competition.

    “We’ve finally reached the home stretch of the season,” said Jonathan Coachman, play-by-play host for World Long Drive Association events on Golf Channel. “With the World Championship only weeks away, the competitors understand the need to be on their game. I’ve always said that champions show up anytime, anywhere, for anything. They better have that mind-set, beginning with tonight’s Tennessee Big Shots.

     

    OPEN DIVISION QUARTERFINAL MATCHES (Seeded by world ranking):

    (1) Justin James (Jacksonville, Fla.) vs. (25) Wes Patterson (St Louis, Mo.)

    (5) Ryan Steenberg (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. (8) Paul Howell (Wilson, N.C.)

    (4) Ryan Reisbeck (Layton, Utah) vs. (9) Kyle Berkshire (Orlando, Fla.)

    (2) Will Hogue (Memphis, Tenn.) vs. (24) Stephen Kois (Wheaton, Ill.)

     

    WOMEN’S DIVISION SEMIFINAL MATCHES:

    Alexis Belton (Ruston, La.) vs. Phillis Meti (Auckland, New Zealand)

    Chloe Garner (Johnson City, Tenn.) vs. Emily Tubert (Burbank, Calif.)

     

    Being staged from Cattails at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport, Tenn., the inaugural event – in partnership with Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Hospital – is the fourth WLDA event of 2018 scheduled to air live on Golf Channel. Tennessee Big Shots is being contested in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. The eventalso marks the penultimate WLDA competition of the year, with the season-culminating Volvik World Long Drive Championship taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 5.

    COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Tennessee Big Shots will air on Golf Channel from 6-8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 13, with Golf Central previewing the event from 5-6 p.m. ET. Encore showings of the competition are scheduled to air on Golf Channel following the live telecast, from 10 p.m.-Midnight ET and 12:30-2:30 a.m. ET.

    The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. An overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) will display the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

    BROADCAST TEAM: Veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play alongside Art Sellinger, World Long Drive pioneer and two-time world champion (1986, ’91). Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

    DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Tennessee Big Shots by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

    Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Tennessee Big Shots leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

     

    2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

    DATE

    EVENT

    LOCATION

    WINNER(S) / DEFENDING CHAMP

    March 15-17

    East Coast Classic

    West Columbia, S.C.

    Justin Moose

    April 21-24

    Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

    Mesquite, Nev.

    Alexis Belton, Will Hogue

    May 11-15

    Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

    Maricopa, Ariz.

    Phillis Meti, Will Hogue

    June 4-5

    Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

    Atlantic City, N.J.

    Sandra Carlborg, Mark Costello

    June 21-23

    Bluff City Shootout

    Memphis, Tenn.

    Will Hogue

    July 6-8

    Bash For Cash

    Port Rowan, Ont., Canada

    Ryan Steenberg

    August 2-4

    WinStar Midwest Slam

    Thackerville, Okla.

    Kyle Berkshire

    August 12-13

    Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

    Kingsport, Tenn.

    (New Event)

    September 1-5

    Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

    Thackerville, Okla.

    Sandra Carlborg, Justin James

    Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events throughout 2018 are staged through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, along with an all-encompassing international qualifier for the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.

    Getty Images

    Making Ryder Cup picks: Furyk begins his toughest task

    By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2018, 6:41 pm

    ST. LOUIS – By the time Brooks Koepka teed off for the final round of the PGA Championship, Jim Furyk was already back at his rental house and settled in to watch what would be an eventful final round.

    Furyk's day was just getting started.

    Although he’d been up since dawn and had already put in a full day at Bellerive with a 7:56 a.m. tee time, Sunday began a process the U.S. Ryder Cup captain has prepared for and anticipated for two years.

    “I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week,” Furyk conceded on Sunday following a closing 71 at Bellerive. “At times I found myself with my mind wandering. The afternoon tee times I’m sitting around in the morning and my mind starts wandering and I start looking at stats and start thinking about the Ryder Cup. There’s a million things going on.”

    The American captain is officially on the clock. The final round of the year’s final major was the deadline to qualify for this year’s Ryder Cup team, and Furyk now begins the process of narrowing the list of potential captain’s picks.

    Davis Love III, who took two turns in the captain’s chair, will tell you this is the toughest part of the gig. Forget about pairings and course setup and vice captains - getting the picks right is what separates a good captain from a great one.

    “I saw him around this week kind of frazzled like I was; they are pulling him everywhere,” Love said. “Now it’s a tough couple of weeks. At dinner the other night we were talking about what we were going to do [regarding picks] and I was like, ‘Well, you have to wait for [Sunday] and you’ll get a better idea.”

    On that front, the wait is over. The top eight players on the U.S. point list are now locked in and Furyk and his vice captains – Love, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods – can begin the artful process of creating a list of possible picks based on a wide variety of criteria.


    PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    The automatic qualifiers are Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, who held on to the final spot thanks to his tie for 19th at the PGA.

    “For some guys we’re going to look at the body of work for a year, for some players we’re going to look at a hot player right now, some guys we’re going to look at pairings and how they fit into the team we have right now,” Furyk said.

    Furyk will make three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3 following the Dell Technologies Championship and his final selection a week later after the BMW Championship.

    The short list of possible picks would include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau, Nos. 9 through 15, respectively, on the final point list.

    Schauffele and Finau had something of a playing interview at Bellerive when they were paired with Furyk for Rounds 1 and 2.

    “Tony made a pile of birdies, he’s explosive as far as firepower and how far he hits it but I was impressed with his putting, to be honest with you. I knew he could hit it far and kind of knew how he played, but he really played well,” said Furyk, who also played with Finau on Saturday at the PGA.

    Mickelson will be a particularly interesting option for Furyk. For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, which began in 1995, Lefty failed to qualify for the U.S. side and the de facto team room front man would be tough to pass over.

    “His game has been in a good position all year, he’s putted great, I think Jason Day is the only player with better putting stats this year,” said Furyk, who met with Mickelson after he missed the cut in St. Louis. “He’s working on a couple of things in his game right now that we talked about.”

    Woods also creates some interesting scenarios. His runner-up finish at the PGA vaulted him from 20th to 11th on the final point list and essentially assured what many believed to be a foregone conclusion. Woods will be among Furyk’s captain’s picks, the only real question when it comes to the 14-time major champion is whether he can play and drive a vice captain’s cart.

    “He’s on that list we’ve talked about and I think we still need to hash that out,” Furyk said. “Is it possible [to do both jobs]? Sure, we just need to decide if that’s best for the team.”

    If Woods and Mickelson have already been penciled in as picks, which many believe they have, that essentially leaves a half dozen players vying for the final two spots.

    An 11th-hour charge over the next three weeks could certainly sway Furyk, and he’s made it clear that Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches outside of Paris, favors a certain type of game, think a fairways-and-greens type like Kisner or even Brian Harman, who finished 17th on the point list.

    “I’ve taken a look at the golf course and what I think will really work,” Furyk said.

    There’s also an undercurrent of interest in Furyk going young with his picks to give a player like DeChambeau or Schauffele a chance to experience the unique pressures of a Ryder Cup “road game,” but Furyk didn’t seem as interested in developing future talent as he is in winning.

    “Our goals for long term are important and young blood is a good thing, but I would never sacrifice this team or 2018 for 2022,” he said. “The goal is still to go to Europe and try to retain the cup. That said, having a mix of veteran and young players is a good thing.”

    If Furyk sounds a little vague when it comes to his potential picks it should be no real surprise. Getting the picks right is the most demanding part of any captain’s job and he’s just getting started.