Golf Buzz

May 27, 2014 - 11:11am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
In less than two years, Jordan Spieth has shown the world that he has the potential to be the next best player in the game for years to come.

Who will be the next of the best in professional golf? As we've seen over the last couple of years, there's a lot more parity on the PGA Tour.

You may see a guy win one week, think to yourself, "Who is he?" and then the next thing you know he's contending and winning a lot more (Example: Jimmy Walker).

READ: Current U.S. Ryder Cup points list | Europeans points lists

For the purposes of this piece, we wanted to examine players under the age of 30 who have already made a splash, are making a splash, or who we anticipate to make a splash in the not too distant future.

Here are 10 players you can expect to see contending for majors and battling for the No. 1 World Ranking over the next several years.

1. Rory McIlroy
Age:
25
Current World Ranking: 6
Number of PGA Tour victories: 6
Number of European Tour victories: 6
Best finish in a major: Won the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship
Why you need to watch: Among his fellow pros on this list, McIlroy is the lone player to have already won a major championship and also hold the world's No. 1 ranking. As we all know, 2013 was a down year for McIlroy for a host of reasons -- off-the-course business that was taking his mind off golf and an equipment change that took some adjusting. On Sunday in the European Tour’s flagship event – the BMW PGA Championship – McIlroy won on that Tour for the first time since the end of 2012. He's the type of player who we've seen be dominant once before and -- if everything falls into place -- there's no reason to think he can't be dominant, and for a long time, once again.

2. Jordan Spieth
Age:
20
Current World Ranking: 10
Number of PGA Tour victories: 1
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: T2 at the 2014 Masters
Why you need to watch: Out of every player on this list -- with the lone exception of McIlroy who has been there, done that and will likely do it again -- it's probably safe to say Spieth has the most upside. In 37 starts on the PGA Tour as a professional, Spieth has finished in the top 25 on 24 occasions, highlighted by a win at the 2013 John Deere Classic. Though he hasn't won since the John Deere, Spieth has become a regular contender. Some might knock his perceived inability to close out a tournament. Not me. That comes with time and 75 percent of the challenge is putting yourself in a position to win, which he's doing. The wins will come. What impresses me most are the tournaments where he's putting himself in contention -- Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass, Colonial, East Lake, Pebble Beach, Harbor Town -- the best of the best.

3. Jason Day
Age:
26
Current World Ranking: 7
Number of PGA Tour victories: 2
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: Second at the 2011 U.S. Open; T2 at the 2011 Masters and 2013 U.S. Open
Why you need to watch: First off, isn't it a little bit hard to believe that Day is only 26 years old? It feels like he's been around forever. And, yes, while he is one of those players you'd expect to have won more on Tour, I'm giving him the same pass as Spieth. It takes time to learn how to win. The only thing that scares me about Day are injuries. This season, after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, it's a thumb injury that's forced him to miss time and not be at his best when he is able to play. Any injury that involves any part of the hands is scary for a golfer. That's where all the feel is. I'm optimistic that Day will heal and when he does, I wouldn't be surprised to see him rattle off some multiple-win seasons.

4. Dustin Johnson
Age:
29
Current World Ranking: 14
Number of PGA Tour victories: 8
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: T2 at the 2011 Open Championship
Why you need to watch: DJ just barely made his way onto this list... but that's only because of his age. He'll turn 30 in late June. Talent-wise, we always hear there may be no better pure athlete walking the fairways today (with the arguable exception of Gary Woodland who, by the way, turns 30 on May 22). There are a couple of factors that make Johnson stand out -- 1. His ability to bounce back from and forget a heartbreaking defeat like he suffered at the 2010 U.S. Open and the 2011 PGA Championship; 2. His winning consistency. Johnson has won on the PGA Tour in every season since 2008 (including this one. Even though his last victory -- the WGC-HSBC Champions -- came last November it was part of the new wraparound schedule). He's got more PGA Tour wins than anyone else on this list.

5. Rickie Fowler
Age:
25
Current World Ranking: 37
Number of PGA Tour victories: 1
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: T5 at the 2011 Open Championship and the 2014 Masters
Why you need to watch: In terms of popularity amongst the younger crowds in the game, there may be no one more popular than Fowler. He certainly has a fashion style that's his own. The competitor in Fowler would love nothing more than for us to be talking less about his clothes and more about wins. To date, he has that lone PGA Tour win, which came at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012 in a playoff with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. People genuinely want Fowler to be the face of the game -- you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer person. He's charismatic. He possesses a swing that's very much his own and not the cookie-cutter variety you see with a lot of Tour players. He just needs to get it done down the stretch. Again, like Spieth and Day before him on this list, that will come with time.

6. Harris English
Age:
24
Current World Ranking: 43
Number of PGA Tour victories: 2
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: T15 at the 2013 Open Championship
Why you need to watch: English won as an amateur on the Web.com Tour and has victories in consecutive seasons -- 2013 and 2013-14 -- on the PGA Tour. His game has it all. He may not have the same star power as the players before him on this list -- he's just not flashy -- but don't let that fool you. In crucial stat categories like birdies made, greens hit in regulation and scoring average, English is sixth or better in all of them. In fact, his scoring average of 69.68 is tops on Tour. He plays a steady game with few mistakes... almost reminds you of fellow Sea Island, Ga., residents Matt Kuchar and Davis Love III.

7. Patrick Reed
Age:
23
Current World Ranking: 26
Number of PGA Tour victories: 3
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: Missed cut in lone major start at 2014 Masters
Why you need to watch: Go ahead and laugh. Most people do these days when they hear Reed's name because of the brazen, unsolicited, "top-5 in the world," comments he made after winning at Doral this year in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. While it's wise for young professionals to let others toot their horn, Reed gets the last laugh. Do you realize he has three victories since last August? The only other player with three wins in a shorter amount of time recently is Jimmy Walker with three victories since last October. Whether you like him or not, we can all agree that Reed is a confident guy. I think we can also agree that based on his record, he should be.

8. Seung-Yul Noh
Age:
22
Current World Ranking: 99
Number of PGA Tour victories: 1
Number of European Tour victories: 1
Best finish in a major: T21 at the 2013 PGA Championship
Why you need to watch: OK, so Noh isn't a household name here in the U.S. just yet, but the South Korean should be on your radar at least after his win in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans a few weeks ago. What's also impressive about Noh is that he's won on every tour he's played -- PGA Tour, European Tour, Asia Tour, Web.com Tour. Noh is coached by Sean Foley, who also dishes swing advice to the likes of Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods. Once asked about what makes Noh so good, Foley joked with a play on his pupil's name, "Soon you'll know." We're just beginning to find out.

9. Peter Uihlein
Age:
24
Current World Ranking: 92
Number of PGA Tour victories: 0
Number of European Tour victories: 1
Best finish in a major: T48 at the 2011 Open Championship
Why you need to watch: Peter is the son of Wally Uihlein, chairman and chief executive officer of the Acushnet Company, maker of Titleist golf balls, clubs and more. Though he's been in a bit of a slump lately -- just two cuts made on both the European and PGA Tours this season -- I love the unconventional route Uihlein has taken to become a player at the top level. Unlike so many in the U.S. who work their way through mini tours and the Web.com Tour to get to the big show, Uihlein hasn't been afraid to sow his oats in Europe. The 2010 U.S. Amateur champion started out on the Challenge Tour (Europe's equivalent to the Web.com) and earned his way up to the European Tour. He won in Portugal in 2013 and also had a couple of runner up finishes. The results might not be showing it right now, but all this travel, being exposed to all these different cultures and different styles of golf are going to pay off in the long run for Uihlein. It should be noted, too, that Uihlein withdrew from the BMW PGA Championship last week due to a back injury. Hopefully he bounces back from that soon.

10. Hideki Matsuyama
Age:
22
Current World Ranking: 24
Number of PGA Tour victories: 0
Number of European Tour victories: 0
Best finish in a major: T6 at the 2013 Open Championship
Why you need to watch: Don't be fooled by Matsuyama's apparent lack of victories. Truth is, this is the first full season for Matsuyama on the PGA Tour. If you want to be impressed, look no further than what he's done in Japan. Matsuyama turned professional in April 2013 and won his second professional tournament, the 2013 Tsuruya Open on the Japan Golf Tour. Five weeks later, he won for the third time on that tour and with a top-10 finish in the 2013 U.S. Open, he cracked the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Last December, he won for the fifth time on the Japan Golf Tour and became the first rookie to lead that Tour's money list. On the PGA Tour this season, Matsuyama has seven top-25 finishes in 13 starts, highlighted by a tie for third at the Frys.com Open. While Matsuyama's countryman Ryo Ishikawa has gotten a lot of the attention over the years -- and rightfully so, though his game hasn't fully adjusted to the PGA Tour -- don't overlook Matsuyama. 

Patriot Cup
Dierks Bentley/Twitter
Kid Rock and Dierks Bentley teamed up Monday in the Folds of Honor Foundation's Patriot Cup celebrity tournament in Tulsa.

What were they thinking?

The Folds of Honor Foundation is hosting the Patriot Cup in Tulsa, Okla., for celebrities, military honorees and invited guests. And on Monday, Dierks Bentley was teamed up with this guy:

 

 

I'm guessing they could play all summer long, free and easy down the road they go until they reach home. Or the clubhouse.

By the way, there's a concert Monday evening at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where both Bentley and Kid Rock will showcase their skills off the course.

May 25, 2014 - 2:26pm
mark.aumann's picture
Jeff Wallahan
Christine Decker/Facebook
Santa Rosa, Calif., golfer Jeff Wallahan had the round of a lifetime Friday at Foxtail Golf Club.

The odds of being struck by lightning during your lifetime are about 3,000 to 1. The odds of making a hole-in-one are much higher, approximately 12,500 to 1. For Jeff Wallahan, lightning struck twice as he made two aces within a seven-hole stretch, a feat that's almost impossible to calculate.

Wallahan, who owns a repair shop in Santa Rosa, Calif., was out playing 18 holes on a sunny, warm day Friday afternoon on the North course at nearby Foxtail Golf Club when he aced the 139-yard, par-3 No. 6 hole. On the very next par-3, the 148-yard No. 13, it was a repeat performance -- another hole-in-one.

Pro shop assistant Ethan Schultz confirmed the feat Sunday afternoon.

PGA OF AMERICA HOLE-IN-ONES: Register your ace here

Christine Decker and her husband, William, joined Wallahan on the back nine, and Wallahan told them about his previous good fortune as they prepared to hit off the tee at No. 13. Then Wallahan stepped up and hit his tee shot, making them both witnesses to the second ace. Decker shared the story and a photo on her Facebook page.

"It hit the green, and then just rolled and rolled and rolled, and then disappeared," Christine Decker said. "We were in a golf cart and he was walking, so we drove up to the green. But my husband told me to stay put and not look in the cup. He wanted [Wallahan] to find out first."

The ball was definitely at the bottom of the cup, Wallahan's second ace. Pro shop workers said Wallahan is not a regular there, so he picked a perfect day to come out to play.

 

 

May 25, 2014 - 12:22pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rory McIlroy
Getty Images
It's been a difficult week for Rory McIlroy, personally. But, professionally, it couldn't have been better as he won the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday -- his first European Tour victory since November 2012.

What started off as a rough week for Rory McIlroy ended on a high note on Sunday.

Early last week, the former world No. 1 and two-time major champion announced he had called off his engagement with tennis star Caroline Wozniaki. During his press conference ahead of the BMW Championship -- the European Tour's flagship event -- McIlroy was visibly shaken.

People around the world can relate -- it's not easy going through a break up. And, for high-profile athletes like McIlroy and Wozniaki, unfortunately their private lives are very much in the public.

RELATED: McIlroy calls off engagement to Wozniaki | Sunday's photos

McIlroy got past those emotions and won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth by one shot on Sunday over Shane Lowery.

We don't need to make it anymore dramatic than it was -- again, everyone has been through a break up. But, for McIlroy, this is a big step towards moving ahead with his professional life which has been shaky since the start of 2013.

In fact, McIlroy's victory on Sunday was his first on the European Tour since the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in November of 2012. His last victory on the PGA Tour was in September of that same year during the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup at the BMW Championship.

While McIlroy did win the Emirates Australian Open in December, this one today is much bigger for many reasons. First of all, he's officially gotten the monkey off his back with a win on one of the two biggest tours (European or PGA) in the world since his much discussed and analyzed equipment change at the start of 2013.

Secondly, this particular tournament is arguably the most coveted on the European Tour outside of the majors. Essentially, this is the European Tour's version of the Players Championship.

The victory will give McIlroy the on-course abundance of confidence that has been missing from his game for nearly a year and a half. That's huge. It also comes at a great time with the U.S. Open right around the corner.

Finally, the the No. 1 spot in the world playing the role of hot potato lately, this could be the start of McIlroy getting the train back on the track toward reaching that spot yet again.

May 24, 2014 - 4:19pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Joe Miller
YouTube
This is what happens when a long-drive champion's tee shot meets a watermelon.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if a world long-drive champion smashed a tee shot into a watermelon?

Neither did I. However, having seen this video from the folks at the European Tour, I must admit it's pretty cool.

Naturally, the watermelon didn't stand a chance against 2010 Long Drive World Champion Joe Miller, but the slo-mo and various camera angles make this a cool video. 

Patrick Reed and Justine Reed
Getty Images
Patrick Reed and his wife/caddie Justine shared his Wyndham Championship victory last summer.

Most of us first became familiar with PGA Tour player Patrick Reed when he won the Wyndham Championship in a playoff last summer with his wife Justine serving as his caddie. He then won the Humana Challenge in January, this time without his significant other on the bag.

The reason? Justin, we learned, was pregnant with the couple's first child. And though her brother, Kessler Karain, had taken over the caddying duties, Justine still determinedly walked every hole on his march to victory.

The baby, the Reeds said back then, was due around Memorial Day, and they weren't far off. Their daughter – named Windsor Wells Reed – was born Thursday, and news of her birth broke today. 

The family hasn't released any photos yet, but that's okay. And now that the child is here, we'll have to wait and see when, or if, Justine returns to her caddying duties as she's planned.