Thursday, April 17, 2014

Future is bright for PGA Tour

There are usually a couple of clear signs spring is here. One, and usually the final piece to come into place, is The Masters.

As I looked outside my window this weekend to see flurries and on the weather reports to see minus temperatures, the picturesque weather in Augusta, Ga. transported me to a place of warmth and excitement.

However, this year's tournament spoke to me for a different reason.

After watching The Masters, the PGA has to be excited for the future of their tour.

Despite Tiger Woods not being in the field and the ratings being down from last year's tournament, the PGA Tour has a number of young players ready to step into the spotlight. The Masters featured 24 rookies at Augusta, 18 of whom were professionals.

Jordan Spieth with Bubba Watson during the final round of The Masters (Photo from

Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old from Dallas, Texas playing for a green jacket for the first time, finished tied for second at 5 under par. In the final round, Spieth at one point held a two-stroke lead on eventual champion Bubba Watson. The rookie had two straight bogeys on No. 8 and 9, which derailed his chance to become the youngest winner of the coveted green jacket. As Watson birdied those two holes, Spieth went from two up to two down heading into the back nine.

But the tournament worked as a showcase for Spieth, who after his finish at Augusta is ninth in the World Golf Rankings. Spieth has one win under his belt from 2013's John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., downing Dustin Johnson and Canadian David Hearn in a five-hole playoff. His second place finish at The Masters was already the fifth of his career.

Spieth is the most recent young player to take the PGA by storm. Also in the top five of this year's tournament was 25-year-old Rickie Fowler from Anaheim, Calif. It was the highest finish at Augusta for the highly-touted Fowler. With one PGA Tour win at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., Fowler has yet to break through in one of the four majors. He also tied for fifth at The Open in 2011.

This has all been said without mentioning former golden boy Rory McIlroy. He got the attention of the golf world in 2011 with a 56-hole lead at The Masters before crumbling in the final round to finish tied for 15th. McIlroy responded with a dominating performance at the 2011 U.S. Open, winning his first major by eight strokes. He also won the 2012 PGA Championship by eight strokes.

While he has struggled recently, McIlroy put up his highest finish at Augusta last weekend. After a poor second round, he shot a 1-under 71 and 3-under 69 in the third and fourth round respectively to finish in a tie for eighth at even par.

Weyburn, Saskatchewan's Graham DeLaet was one of the 18 players to make his debut at The Masters. Following a tough opening round, DeLaet responded with an even par 72. However, he still missed the cut by finishing the tournament 8 over par.

“Still the best week of my life,” tweeted DeLaet after missing the cut Friday afternoon.

The 32-year-old DeLaet is ranked 30th in the World Golf Rankings and has 12 top-10 finishes in the last two years. The majority of press given to DeLaet was based on his knowledge of his back injury similar to Woods'.

But with young, talented, future stars scattered throughout the field and a strong Canadian golfer in the mix, why were the ratings down?

The easy answer is to point to the absence of Woods, who is the most popular player on tour. Other than a major star in contention, and with all due respect Watson is not at that level yet, what really was lacking from the final round was the drama that is usually synonymous with a Sunday at Augusta.

In last year's tournament, on a rainy Sunday evening, eventual champion Adam Scott was locked in a thrilling final round and playoff battle with Angel Cabrera.

Once Spieth bogeyed those two holes in the middle of his final round, the drama was sucked out of this year's tournament. Watson was essentially completing a nine-hole victory lap en route to his second green jacket.

With Woods being out until at least after the U.S. Open, it is time for the PGA Tour to showcase it's young talent.

After what we saw at The Masters, the talent is clearly there.

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