Top five Americans under the age of 25

By Rex HoggardNovember 21, 2013, 1:21 am

Be it the inherent dangers of unrealistic expectations, the misguided failings of the American college system or the traditionally languid pace of player development from potential to bona fide player, the emergence of a true American prospect has been largely an exercise in diminishing returns in recent years.

Dustin Johnson has victories in his first seven years on the PGA Tour and a collection of major near-misses, but at 29 the bomber has moved beyond the “project” phase of his career and firmly into the circuit’s established core.

The same could be said for Brandt Snedeker, 33; Keegan Bradley, 27; Webb Simpson, 28; Bill Haas, 31; and Hunter Mahan, 31; to name a few.

But thanks to Jordan Spieth’s historic zero-to-60 run into the big leagues and Peter Uihlein’s trailblazing season on the European Tour, not to mention Harris English’s second Tour tilt last week in Mexico, the landscape now includes a growing collection of accomplished American’s who are under 25.

Talent spotting is more art than science and the mini-tours are littered with can’t-miss kids who did, but with so much potential perched on the doorstep to stardom your scribe polled a collection of industry insiders to create a “top 5 under 25” list of American talent.

In no particular order (while most observers agreed on the primary candidates, building a consensus as to how they compare to each other is as byzantine as the Country Music Awards), here is a look at the U.S.A.’s best and brightest:

Spieth. His only misstep in 2013 was skipping the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an understandable omission and proof no one is perfect.

The 20-year-old played his way onto the Tour with top-10 finishes in Puerto Rico and Tampa, went 1-for-2 in playoffs to win the John Deere Classic and finish runner-up at the Wyndham Championship and became the first player since Tiger Woods in 1997 to play his way into the Tour Championship.

U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples’ decision to make Spieth a pick for this year’s matches spoke volumes – 2013’s runaway Rookie of the Year is as good as advertised.

“I have confidence in myself and my support team definitely believed in me to get the job done,” Spieth said in September. “Just the way the year ran the way it happened, I feel very fortunate, very blessed. A lot of luck involved.”

Uihlein. Although not nearly as well-documented in the United States as Spieth’s climb, the 24-year-old won the Madeira Island Open on the European Tour and was 14th on the final Race to Dubai list.

At 64th in the World Golf Ranking it’s likely U.S. audiences will see more of Uihlein in 2014 as he brings a surprisingly complete game back across the pond.

Rickie Fowler. Critics will point to the 24-year-old’s single Tour victory (2012 Wells Fargo Championship) as a reason to exclude him from this list, but such are the pitfalls of runaway expectations and early success.

At 40th in the world Fowler is the second-highest ranked player on this list, behind Spieth at No. 21, and despite his relatively lonely trophy case he’s proven himself surprisingly consistent over his short career.

He has the same number of career top-10 finishes as he does missed cuts (23) and earlier this month he finished runner-up to Adam Scott at the Australian PGA Championship to cap his season.

English. The 24-year-old won with the savvy of a veteran on Sunday at the OHL Classic, lapping the field by four strokes, and has quietly emerged as one of the Tour’s hidden gems.

In two-plus years on Tour he’s played 57 events, missed just 10 cuts and narrowly failed to advance to East Lake when he finished 31st on this year’s FedEx Cup points list.

“I guess it started when I was younger about being calm on the golf course. I used to get pretty mad when I was younger, and my mom used to get onto me how I need to stay calm and act like she doesn't know if I'm shooting 85 or 65,” English said on Sunday. “I've watched guys like Freddy Couples, Davis Love, Phil Mickelson, all these guys growing up, how they acted on the golf course.”

The final spot on our “top 5 under 25” list was not as clear as the first four.

“I’m lost for a fifth,” said one insider when polled. “(Russell) Henley is too slow, (Patrick) Cantlay too young, (Bud) Cauley too short, (Jamie) Lovemark too hurt.”

John Peterson. Although there were plenty of candidates for the final spot, the 24-year-old ultimately separated himself with a torrid finish to his 2013 campaign on the Tour.

In his last five events, Peterson didn’t finish outside the top 5 and was runner-up at the finale at TPC Sawgrass to wrest the Finals Series money title from Seung-Yul Noh and secure full status for the 2013-14 Tour season. Peterson has a refreshingly complete game, finishing 2013 first in greens in regulation, scoring, ballstriking and 39th in ballstriking on the secondary tour.

As is normally the case, someone will consider their absence from this list a slight, which demands an honorable mention section. Tour rookie Hudson Swafford highlights that list, followed by Cauley, Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Luke Guthrie, Morgan Hoffman, Andrew Loupe and Andrew Putnam.

Of course, the fact that America finally has a collection of young talent with enough tools to be considered potential stars is a testament to golf in the Lower 48, which has curiously been criticized in recent decades for not producing the “next Tiger Woods.”

As unrealistic as that title is, only time will tell if any of the post-1988 crew climb that high, but it’s nice to be able to have the conversation.

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit