PGA Rookies to watch in 2013

I like to follow one or two new players each year and this year there are a lot of rookies with very impressive resumes.  All you need to do is look at the top 25 from the 2012 Web.com Tour money list and pick one.  There are three Web.com players that I find interesting:

1)  Casey Whittenberg – He is really not a “rookie” on the PGA tour because he has been playing tournaments on the PGA tour and Web.com tour (formally, Nationwide tour) for a number of years but he earned his 2013 PGA tour card with his excellent play in 2012.

I first became aware of Wittenberg watching the 2004 Masters when he finish 13th as an amateur (the highest finish of an amateur since 1961.)  After the Masters, everyone thought when he turned pro that he would win quickly; but Whittenberg has had his challenges.  However in 2012 it appears he has found his game and was the “2012 player of the year” on the Web.com tour and is one of five Web.com tour players to have won twice in 2012.

2)  Luke Gutherie – Another two-time winner, Gutherie won back-to-back tournaments on the Web.com Tour.  Gutherie played only 10 Web.com tournaments in 2012 and of the ten, seven were top 10 finishes.  His back-to-back wins occurred in September at the Albertsons Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic.

3)   Ben Kohles – Not only was Kohles a two-time and back-to-back winner on the Web.com tour; but those back-to-back wins were his first two starts on tour.  The tournaments were the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and Cox Classic.  It is just so impressive to see someone win in the first two tournaments of their professional career.

There are many other rookies to watch but there is only one other that I will be keeping my eye on and that is Patrick Reed also fondly known as “Mr. Monday.”  He got the nickname, “Mr. Monday,” on tour in 2012 because he entered PGA tournaments the “old school” way by playing in Monday qualifiers.  He played in eight PGA Monday qualifiers and made the field in six tournaments.  Of course, as fate would have it, he won his PGA tour card at Q-school on a Monday.

What really makes me a fan of Patrick Reed is his personal story.  His fiancée (now wife), Justine Karain, is his caddie and he gives her plenty of credit as evident in the interview from the Well Fargo.  Apparently she played golf in high school (the couple met in high school) and is very good at reading putts.  I’ve always been impressed with women caddies because I can’t imagine carrying a 50 pound tour bag and living the life of a caddie.  Also, I am impressed with professional golfers who are “evolved enough” to have a women on the bag (i.e. gender doesn’t matter, the best person for the job) and another reason I like Patrick Reed.  The couple married in December 2012 and they plan to continue being a team on the course.  Let’s hope the Reed’s have a very successful 2013.

Daughters of the PNC Father/Son Challenge Golf Event

When I turned on the TV Saturday and saw the PNC Father/Son Challenge on NBC I thought this will be a nice relief from all the horrible news on TV this week.  In the opening recap of early play, of day one, I was delighted (O.K, thrilled) to see a father and daughter team in the lead. I even tweeted about it.

Image of Tweet about PNC Father Son Challenge

I am not against father/son or mother/daughter specific events but it was wonderful to see that in a sport that some people label as “sexist” there are professional events that have evolved to have both sexes participate.  Another event is the Wendy’s Three Tour Challenge so check it out next year if you have not seen it.  The PNC Father/Son is unique because it really is a family event. There are grandfather and grandson pairings; father and stepson pairings; and even some caddies are family members (wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, father-in-laws, etc.)

For the purpose of this post, I thought it would be fun to focus on the daughters of the PNC Father Son Challenge.

The Father/Daughter Teams

(1) Bernard and Christina Langer – Bernard Langer won the Father/Son Challenge in 2005 and 2006 with his son, Stephan.  Boy, no pressure on Christina!  Christina is a talented golfer and is a freshman on the golf team at Florida Atlantic University. It really was a father daughter event with Bernard’s other daughter, Jackie, on the bag.

(2) Fuzzy and Gretchen Zoeller – Gretchen is a former college golfer and in 2009 she was the caddy on her father’s bag at The Masters.  There was an interview on NBC and Gretchen was talking about her father and it was wonderful to see Fuzzy’s reaction to his daughter’s declarations of respect and love.  It was also interesting to watch her play and see that the “apple does not fall far from the tree” – she was animated and fun to watch (just like her Dad).  Watch the PGA Tour video recap (35 second mark in video) to see Gretchen’s bird imitation!

Final Scores

The father daughter teams did well but neither won the tournament.  The results are that the Zoellers tied for sixth place with the Nicolas and Furk teams and the Langers finished in 10th place.  The Zoellers also had low round of the final day with a 60 (the Nelsons also got a 60).

The winners were David Love III and his son Dru.  They beat the Nelsons by one stroke which was nice because the Nelsons beat the Loves in 2008.  This is the first year the tournament has been played since 2008 so the Loves waited a long time to beat the Nelsons.  The Nelsons have won three times (2004, 2007, and 2008).

Watch the PGA Tour Monday Backspin Video Recap for a nice overview of the Tournament.

The “Bubble Boys” of Fall Golf

Average golf fans are not watching golf on TV in the fall.  By average I mean those that love to play golf but only watch professional golf from The Masters through the Fedex Cup playoffs.  However, for an avid fan (which I consider myself to be), the fall is an exciting time in golf because the “fall series” is the last chance for many professional golfers to keep their “jobs” for next year.

Overview of the PGA Tour Fall Series

The fall series is made up of four tournaments (listed below) from October 4 to November 11.  At the end of the fall series the 2012 official money list is final and used to determine status on tour for the following year.

The top 125 on the PGA Tour money list automatically maintain their “card” for the 2013 season.  If a golfer does not make the top 125, then the player is off to Q-School to fight for a place on tour next year.   Think about it for a moment – can you imagine the work you have done all year is not good enough and what you do in the fall determines if you get to keep your current job.  That is what faces many players on the PGA tour and we get to watch it all unfold.

Basically, any player hovering around the 125 position on the money list is not in a comfortable position.  If you are a few spots above 125, you need to play well to stay in your position.  If you are below the 125, you are fighting to crawl your way up and keep you job.

The four tournaments that comprise the “fall series” are:

  1. Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
  2. The Frys.com Open
  3. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic

“Bubble Boys” Revealed

The PGA tour is half way through the fall series and each week a new “bubble boy” or player sits in the 125th position.  Before the Justin Timberlake Open, Dave Mathis was the “bubble boy.”  What is his position now?  He is in the 122nd spot.  That’s o.k. but still a bit to close to the 125 cut line for comfort.

As the Frys.com tournament got on the way, Jeff Maggart was in the 125th position.  At the start of the fall series Maggart was at 123.  So he dropped to 125 after the Justin Timberlake Open.  But Maggart had an excellent week at the Frys.com and finished up to position 119.

This week, heading into the McGladrey Classic, Billy Mayfair is the “bubble boy.”  Mayfair has hovered around the 125 position from the start of the fall series (e.g. was 124, then 123 and now 125).  So I would think he is in need of a very good week to get himself a bit more distance from being so close to the cut line.

One of the reasons the fall series is exciting is not just because of the players hovering around the 125 position but also seeing some of the more dramatic moves on the money list.

Dramatic Moves on the Money List

Some of the moves are good and some are bad.  Here are just two examples. John Daly (current position: 141) sliding in the wrong direction and Jason Kokrak (current position: 117) leaping up the money list.

(1) John Daly has been a fan favorite for years but has not always been able to maintain his life on tour (mostly due to his life off tour – let’s just say he knows how to enjoy life but has also had a lot of hard times to over come too).  Daly has played quite well this year and going into the fall series was at 132 on the money list.  If he played well he could perhaps get his card.  Going into the weekend at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Daly was doing great shooting 69 and 63 (8 under par going into the weekend).  On Saturday, Daly imploded shooting an 86 (or 15 over par).  He recovered a bit on Sunday but was still 11 over par for the tournament.   He missed the cut at the Frys.com and now sits at 141 on the money list.

(2) Jason Kokrak is a rookie on the PGA tour.  He is not a player most fans know because he is not one of the “star” rookies.  Kokrak ranks 17 out of 25 on the PGA Tour Rookie Rankings list .  Kokrak had an excellent week at the Frys.com finishing in a tie for second place and taking home $440,000 in earnings; and moving him from 167 on the money list to 117.  Let’s hope he plays well at the next two events and keeps his card.

Next stop – The McGladrey Classic

As mentioned above, Billy Mayfair is the “Bubble Boy” this week at the McGladrey Classic.  If you believe past results are a prediction of the future, then Mayfair will not get the bump he needs this week because he finished in 20th at the McGladrey last year.  But I’m sure the motivation to keep your card can inspire players to do great things so Mayfair could surprise everyone and win.  After all, anything can happen in the fall series…that is why it is worth watching.

Why not check out the PGA Tour Money List, pick a player near the 125 position (any player between 120 and 130) and track their progress this week at the McGladrey Classic.  I promise you will be hooked and want to see what happens at the end of the fall series.