Tag: Jack Nicklaus

The PGA Tour: Changing of the Guard-Volume I

A group of young guns is emerging on the PGA Tour, flexing their muscle and exerting a powerful influence that will change the landscape of professional golf for the next decade and more. Each is seeking to etch his name in golf history, and all have the talent to do so. Currently twelve players under the age of 30 are included among the top twenty in the World Golf Rankings, and we will take a look at them all as the 2022 tour season gets under way. Can one of these mega-talented young stars approach the seemingly unattainable records of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? To put it in perspective, Jack Nicklaus recorded 73 tour wins in his career (30 in his twenties), with 18 major titles (7 in his twenties).: Tiger Woods has accumulated 82 wins on tour (46 in his twenties) including 15 major titles (8 in his twenties). Let’s take a look at the first three to see where they currently stand, and consider the possibilities.

John Rahm (27 years old/No. 1 in the World Rankings)

John Rahm is currently at the top of the official World Golf Rankings, and it should really not come as a surprise. With power and precision off the tee, steely nerves and singular focus, Rahm has recorded 6 PGA Tour Wins in the span of just 4 years, including a major title (2021 US Open). Born in Barrika, Spain as ‘John Rahm Rodriguez’, he was an exceptional golfer from an early age, earning a golf scholarship to Arizona State University where he won 11 college golf tournaments before graduating in 2016 (second only to Phil Mickelson, who recorded 16 wins at ASU). He waited to turn pro until the conclusion of the 2016 US Open, having received an invitation to compete as the #1 ranked amateur in the world, and recorded a top 25 finish. The following week he finished 3rd at the Quicken Loans National Tournament, gaining an invitation to The Open at Royal Troon where he made the cut, and followed that up with a runner-up finish at the Canadian Open the very next week. Adding two top 15 finishes in the fall secured his tour card, and Rahm exploded onto the golf scene in January 2017 with a remarkable come from behind victory at the Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines–against a powerhouse field). He continued his success, recording four more wins between 2018 and 2020, and then took home the U.S. Open title in 2021, where he fired a final round 67 to defeat Louis Oosthuizen on the difficult South Course at Torre Pines. And with two Ryder Cups under his belt already, expect Rahm to be a pillar of the European team for many years to come. To get close to the bar set by Jack and Tiger however, Rahm will need to pick up his pace quite a bit with at least fifteen more wins and four or five major titles in the next few years. It can be done though, since he won’t turn 30 until November of 2024, giving him 3 more full seasons to beef up his record. Jack won 19 times from 1971-1973, and Tiger recorded 22 wins between 1999 and 2001. The problem is that Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are still in their prime, along with a host of youthful superstars who also want to make their mark on the game.

Collin Morikawa (24 years old/No. 2 in the World Rankings)

When talking about young guns on the PGA Tour, Collin Morikawa jumps right to the top of the list. Known for precision iron play, Morikawa evokes images of Johnny Miller at the top of his game. When you add his accuracy off the tee and a beautiful putting stroke, the possibilities are unlimited. Morikawa was born in Los Angeles, California. Like Rahm, Morikawa started playing golf very early and proved himself to be a talent. He received a golf scholarship to play at the University of California, Berkley, where he excelled on the collegiate golf stage, winning numerous amateur championships and rising to #1 in the World Amateur Golf rankings in 2018. After graduating from college in 2019, Morikawa turned professional and immediately recorded a top 15 finish at the Canadian Open after receiving a sponsor’s exemption (a field that included Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson). The following week he made the cut at the US Open (held at Pebble Beach), closing with a final round 69. He then finished runner up at the 3M Open, recorded a top 5 at the John Deere Classic the very next week, and secured his card for the 2020 season by winning the Barracuda Championship. After making the cut in all nine of the tournaments he entered in 2019, Morikawa started the 2020 season by making the cut in his first 11 events before the season was put on hold due to COVID 19. When the season resumed, Morikawa recorded a runner up at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the 21st consecutive cut he had made from the start of his PGA career, with a chance to challenge   Tiger’s record of 25. Unfortunately, his streak ended at 22 with a missed cut two weeks later at the Travelers, but Morikawa wasted no time with what might have been, and notched a second tour win two weeks later in a playoff with Justin Thomas (the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village). The following month Morikawa won the PGA Championship, his first major title, firing a final round 64 (tying Steve Elkington’s record for lowest final round at the PGA) and ended the season with a sixth-place finish at the Tour Championship. The 2021 season was even more spectacular, as Morikawa added two more wins, including his second major title at the Open Championship, a top 5 at the US Open, top 10 at the PGA Championship and a top 20 at the Masters. With 5 wins including 2 majors under his belt already, and six full seasons before he will turn 30, Morikawa has plenty of time to make Tiger and Jack take a serious look over their shoulder.

Justin Thomas (28 Years old/No. 7 in the World Golf Rankings)

It may come as a surprise that Justin Thomas is still in his twenties, since he made his first appearance on the PGA tour way back in 2009. Thomas was just sixteen years old, and still in high school, when he teed it up at the Wyndham Championship, where he opened with a first round 65 and made the cut. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he was taught the game almost as soon as he could walk by is his father, Mike Thomas, the head golf professional at Harmony Landing Country Club. In 2012, as a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Thomas received the Haskins Award as the outstanding college golfer of the year, and opted to join the PGA Tour in 2013, after Alabama won the National Championship. He recorded his first tour victory in 2015 (the CIMB Classic), and added 13 more titles over the next five years, including a major (2017 PGA Championship) and the Players Championship in 2021. Known for his length off the tee, Thomas can roll it on the green as well (ranked 5th in putting in 2017 while recording 5 wins). He only has one more full year in his twenties though, so 2022 needs to be a big one for him if he wants to keep Tiger and Jack in his sights. Keep in mind that Vijay Singh won nine times in ’04, and with his power and putting stroke, Thomas can most definitely make a statement.

Stay tuned as we next look at Bryson DeChambeau (28 years old/No. 13 in the world), Jordan Spieth (28 years old/No. 15 in the world, and Patrick Cantley (29 years old/No. 4 in the world).

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2021 Honda Classic

PGA National Resort and Spa, Palm Beach Gardens FL

The Players Championship Wrap-up

Last week concluded The Players Championship, and it was quite a wild ride to say the least. At the end of the week, Justin Thomas emerged as the victor. Thomas had been rather quiet the first two days of the championship, but on Saturday he fired a blistering 64 which left him only three shots off the pace set by tournament leader, Lee Westwood. On Sunday, Thomas continued his solid play, shooting a comfortable 68, and finishing one shot ahead of Westwood. This was Thomas’ first win of the season and it kicked him all the way up to second place in the FedEx Cup standings. The Players almost felt like a replay of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as Bryson DeChambeau was in the mix again on Sunday, going off in the final pairing in back-to-back weeks with Lee Westwood. I think it’s a safe bet that Bryson will be lifting the championship trophy on quite a few Sundays in 2021 with the way he’s playing. And how about Lee Westwood, suddenly making putts to go along with the pure ball-striking that has been his trade mark for so many years. You won’t find a classier guy on tour, and it’s impossible not to pull for him (which it looks like we can do every week these days).

The Honda Classic

The Honda Classic is set to kick off this week in south Florida, with thrilling golf and a nail-biting finish pretty much guaranteed. Last year, seven players finished within three shots of eventual winner, Sungjae Im. In 2019, six players finished within three shots of winner Keith Mitchell, and in 2018 it came down to a playoff between Luke List and eventual winner, Justin Thomas. The event was originally played at Inverrary Country Club, and was known as “Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic”. Honda became the tournament sponsor in 1982, and from ‘84 through ‘91 the championship was held at Eagle Trace Golf Club in Coral Springs. After 1991, the tournament was hosted at a number of venues, including The Club at Weston Hills, Heron Bay Golf Club, and The Country Club at Mirasol, before finally settling at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort and Spa in 2007. When Jack remodeled the Champion Course in 1990, he created the treacherous three-hole stretch on the back nine that has become known as the “Bear Trap,” which over the years has provided some of the biggest thrills in golf (while guaranteeing that a player will have to hit more than a few extraordinary shots under pressure to take home the trophy).

The Field

Following the Players Championship, a number of big names will be taking the week off–but the field will still be plenty strong with past champion Sungjae Im, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ricky Fowler, Daniel Berger, Jim Furyk, and the red-hot Lee Westwood all teeing it up. Another player to keep a close eye on this week is the young Joaquin Niemann, who had consecutive runner- up finishes earlier in the year at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. Past Champions at the Honda include Jack Nicklaus (twice), Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Tom Weiskopf, and Vijay Singh.

PGA National Resort and Spa

PGA National Resort and Spa was established in 1980, and consists of five 18-hole courses, three of which (including the Champion Course), were originally designed by Tom Fazio, one of the great modern course architects. Jack Nicklaus lifted the Champion Course to even greater heights with the changes he made in 1990, with Arnie and Ed Seay adding their touch to this wonderful golf venue with the “The Palmer Course.” Karl Litten, a highly respected architect who often flies under the radar, designed the ‘The Estates Course.” In addition to the Honda, PGA National has been the site of many high-profile championships over the years, including the 1983 Ryder Cup, 1987 PGA Championship, and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982 through 2000. If you are planning a golf vacation, PGA National is a perfect choice. With five great courses and terrific accommodations, you will find an experience that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget to tune in for the Honda this week, you are guaranteed to see some great golf and big-time excitement come Sunday.

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2021 WGC-Workday Championship

The Concession Golf Club, Bradenton FL

The Genesis Invitational Wrap-Up

Last week concluded The Genesis Invitational, and it was quite a wild ride. Max Homa fired a 66 on Sunday to tie Tony Finau, and then bested him in a playoff to claim victory. This was Homa’s second win on tour, and it vaulted him to number 10 in the FedEx Cup standings, as well as securing a spot in this week’s WGC Workday Championship. This latest defeat will likely weigh heavily on Finau, being the third playoff loss in a row in his quest to become a multiple winner on tour. When you shoot 64 at Riviera on Sunday to give yourself a chance, there is one hell of a lot to feel good about though. And the way Tony strikes the ball, it is only a matter of time—perhaps a major (or two) is in the near future. Another big story was 24-year-old Sam Burns, who led the tournament for most of the week and a good piece of Sunday, falling one shot short of the playoff with three bogeys on the back nine. Paired with Dustin Johnson in the final group on Sunday, he handled himself like a tour veteran. No doubt we’ll be seeing big things from this youngster as the season moves along.

WGC-Workday Championship

This week marks the start of the WGC-Workday Championship. Normally this would be the WGC-Mexico Championship, but due to logistical issues related to COVID-19, the venue had to be switched from Mexico City to south Florida. Prior to Mexico City, the WGC-Workday was played at a number of different venues, most notably a six year stretch at Trump National Doral in Miami from 2011 through 2016. Before moving to Doral, it was held on a rotational basis at different locations around the world including Spain (Valderrama), Ireland (Mount Juliet, a magnificent Nicklaus design), and Britain (The Grove). This year it will be held at the Concession Golf Club in Florida, another wonderful Nicklaus design. Tiger Woods has won this WGC event an astounding 7 times, a record that will stand for a very long time indeed. Outside of the majors and The Players, WGC events are the most highly prized championships on tour, and the winner is awarded 550 FedEx Cup points (50 more than what is awarded for a normal PGA Tour event).

The Field

WGC events are always great theater because the field is comprised of only the top ranked players in the world—the top 50 for the WGC-Workday. Players to keep an eye on this week include Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, and Xander Schauffele. Johnson may be particularly motivated after his lack-luster finish at Riviera last week (one over 72 on Sunday). Brooks Koepka is another player to keep a close eye on, coming off his win in Phoenix a couple of weeks back, and it’s hard to imagine Tony Finau very far from the lead on Sunday after the way he was moving it in LA. Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas are always dangerous, given the prodigious power they can bring to bear, particularly on a demanding Nicklaus layout where length is always at a premium. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a great tournament.

The Concession Golf Club

The Concession Golf Club is a private club located in Bradenton, Florida. It was founded in 2006, and designed by World Golf Hall of Famers, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. The club’s name is derived from one of the magical moments in golf history, when Jack Nicklaus conceded the final put to Tony Jacklin in the 1969 Ryder Cup, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history. The Concession is considered one of the best golf courses in Florida, with countless accolades from Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, and Golfweek. The Concession also offers one of the finest Par 3 courses in the country (The Gimme) as well as a wonderful putting course (Snake Acre). The star of the show, however, is the eighteen-hole championship layout, which has a course rating of 76.7 and a slope of 155 from the tips—guaranteed to be a very stiff test for even the greatest players in the world.

The Puerto Rico Open

This week also marks the start of the Puerto Rico Open, an alternate tournament held for players not eligible for the field at the WGC event. The tournament is being played at the Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. This Championship offers an opportunity for veterans to build their FedEx point total, while giving some of the young stars a chance to shine. The winner of the Puerto Rico Open is awarded 300 FedEx Cup points along with a spot in the field at the 2021 PGA Championship. If there are any superstitious coves among you, some believe there is a curse attached to the Puerto Rico Open, because with the exception of Michael Bradley (a 2-time winner of the event), and more recently Victor Hovland (who later won the Mayakoba Classic), nobody who won here ever won another event on Tour. Keep in mind that Tony Finau, who won the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, is a lock to put an end to the curse theory forever.

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Tiger, Jack and The 2020 Memorial

The Memorial Tournament starts this week at the Muirfiekd Village Golf Club
Muirfield Village Golf Club
July 16, 2020

Tiger and Jack

The Memorial Tournament starts this week, and as we mentioned in our last blog, this will be Tiger’s first start since the tour suspended play for COVID-19. This week will also provide an opportunity for Tiger to break Sam Snead’s record for PGA Tour wins (they are tied at 82). Other than perhaps Augusta National, it’s hard to think of a better place for Tiger to break Snead’s record than Muirfield Village. Earlier in the week Tiger dispelled rumors that his extended absence may have been due to his back, stating “I just felt it was better to stay at home and be safe.” Something tells me he will have his A-game on display this week, so this star-studded field will have to do some playing if they want to delay the inevitable.

Between the two them, Tiger and Jack occupy a pretty hefty chunk of the record book while dominating their respective era. A few of Tiger’s more illustrious records include winning four majors in a row (tying Bobby Jones), most consecutive cuts made (142), and most victories in a single PGA event (8 times at Bay Hill). He also won the Vardon Trophy for lowest season scoring average a record 8 times, with the best ever recorded of 68.17 in 2000, when he won 9 times. At 24, Tiger was the youngest player in history to complete the career grand slam, and also holds the record for most World Golf Championship victories (18). Jack, of course, holds the most prestigious record of all with 18 major victories, but Tiger’s resurgence has suddenly brought it once again within his reach (with the addition of the 2019 Masters, Tiger now has 15 major championships). Jack’s over-all record at the majors is truly eye-popping; however, when you consider that in addition to the 18 wins he also recorded 19 runner-up finishes and was among the top 3 an astounding 48 times. Seeing Jack and Tiger together at the Memorial is an opportunity to witness golf history as it unfolds—and you definitely do not want to miss a minute of it.

WorkDay Charity wrap-up

Last week’s WorkDay Charity Open proved to be yet another exciting finish. Young phenom Collin Morikawa was able to take down Justin Thomas in a playoff thriller and move all the way up to Number 6 in the FedEx cup point standings. Although it was a tough loss, the runner-up finish was more than enough to propel Thomas past Webb Simpson and assume the lead in FedEx points, and also move him ahead of Dustin Johnson to Number 3 in the World Golf Rankings. Young Viktor Hovland also came close, but his hopes were dashed when his ball found water on the 14th hole. The young Norwegian has led the tour in strokes gained tee to green in each of the last three tournaments, and no one has ever done that before, so it’s a good bet he will notch his second tour victory sooner rather than later.

The Memorial

Jack has Muirfield Village set up to play a lot tougher for the Memorial than it was at the WorkDay last week (not that it was easy by any means). First of all, the greens will be far quicker, running between 13 and 13.5 on the stimpmeter (they were at 11 for the WorkDay). In addition, the tees will be pushed back a bit (particularly at the drivable par 4 14th hole), and the mowers will spend less time keeping the thick rough in check. Fast and firm greens with heavy rough are a recipe for high scores, and even such a deep and talented field will have a difficult time going low—exactly the way Jack wants it to be. When you put Tiger together with Jack and Muirfield Village, what could be better.

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Rocket Mortgage Classic and the “Muirfield Double”

Muirfiekd Village Golf Club
Muirfield Village Golf Club
July 7, 2020

DeChambeau wins in Detroit

Last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club delivered not only excitement, but our first bit of controversy as well. Bryson DeChambeau, nicknamed “The Mad Scientist” for his uniquely scientific approach to the golf swing, put the emphasis on “mad” after making a poor shot out of a greenside bunker on the par 5 7th hole during Saturday’s 3rd round, failing to get up and down for birdie. After angrily swatting the sand and then muttering various expletives while leaving the green, he then accosted a camera man for filming his less than professional display. Blowing his top at a camera man for simply doing his job raised a few eyebrows, but in spite of the momentary lapse, DeChambeau charged from three shots back of Matthew Wolff with a sizzling 65 on Sunday and cruised to victory. A new found power surge that he credits to an offseason change in diet and robust exercise regimen has him bombing it off the tee (one of his drives was measured at 375 yards). While he won’t be in the field for the first leg of the “Muirfield Double” at Jack’s course in Dublin, OH, we’ll get a chance to see him the week after for the Memorial where he recorded his second career win in 2018. Bryson has also vaulted to the odds-on favorite for winning one or more of the three majors coming up later this year.

The WorkDay Charity Open

The inaugural WorkDay Charity Open, and first leg of the “Muirfield Double” at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio begins this Thursday (July 9). The Jack Nicklaus masterpiece, and venue for the Memorial Tournament, has perennially drawn one of the strongest fields on the PGA Tour—and this year we get to enjoy it two weeks in a row. The powerhouse field will include Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, and Bubba Watson. Brooks Koepka’s younger brother, Chase, will also be teeing it up this week (the Tour graciously added him to the field after he qualified for the Travelers Championship but withdrew after learning that Brooks’ caddie had tested positive for COVID-19). In addition, the deep field will include Xander Schauffele (2017 Tour Championship winner and runner up in 2019), Hideki Matsuyama (2014 Memorial Champion), and Patrick Cantley (the reigning Memorial Champion).

Muirfield Village

Muirfield Village Golf Club was designed and founded by Jack Nicklaus in 1974 while he was at the height of his PGA Tour career (and he won the Memorial twice, in 1977 and 1984). Jack is notorious for designing difficult tracks, and Muirfield may be the toughest of all with a course rating of 78.6 and a slope of 155. In addition to Jack himself, the list of past winners at Muirfield reads like a who’s who among golf’s elite, including Tiger Woods (5-time winner of the Memorial), Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Hale Irwin, Vijay Singh and Fred Couples. Known for its thick rough, tight fairways and firm greens, year in and year out Muirfield provides a test where the biggest names in golf can display their skills, and identifies the player who is at the very top of his game.

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