New kids on the block are kings of swing

Viet Nam News - - SPORT -

HON­OLULU — Leave it to the old­est rookie to best il­lus­trate how the PGA Tour has be­come such a young man’s game.

Chris Thomp­son tried for 19 years to reach the high­est level of golf, and he fi­nally earned a PGA Tour card when he was 42. With ev­ery year he spent on mini­tours from Flor­ida to Ari­zona, he couldn’t help but no­tice that get­ting bet­ter only meant keep­ing up.

“It’s a pro­fes­sion that not many good play­ers get out of, but there’s al­ways good play­ers get­ting into it,” Thomp­son said.

Ste­wart Cink knows what he’s talk­ing about it.

Cink and Tiger Woods ar­rived on the PGA Tour at roughly the same time and were voted rookie of the year in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons (1996 and 1997). Woods got an early start in the fall of 1996 and won two times in eight starts, so that be­came his rookie sea­son. Cink’s first full sea­son was 1997.

“So re­ally, we started play­ing full­time the same year,” he said. “For the first three years, he was the only player younger than me. That put me at 23, 24, 25. There was no younger player be­sides Tiger Woods than me my first three years.

“How many play­ers on the tour now are 25 and un­der?” Cink asked. “Forty?”

He was close. There are 29 play­ers with full sta­tus on tour who are 25 or younger. That in­cludes Jor­dan Spi­eth and Justin Thomas, who al­ready have won ma­jors and reached No 1 in the world. It in­cludes Jon Rahm and Bryson DeCham­beau and Xan­der Schauf­fele, all of whom are among the top 10 in the world rank­ing.

“They play a lot more, against bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion when they’re younger now,” Cink said. “And they’re just more sea­soned when they come out here. There is no break- in pe­riod any­more like there used to be be­cause you don’t need to learn.”

When he started two decades ago, Cink said most play­ers — Woods is an ex­cep­tion in al­most ev­ery way — had to rein­vent the wheel and learn to play the style of golf re­quired on the PGA Tour.

“Now you just come out here, guns blaz­ing,” he said.

More are on the way.

Woods went straight from col­lege to the PGA Tour. Play­ing on spon­sor ex­emp­tions, he made enough money to se­cure a full card in just four tour­na­ments, and then he won in Las Ve­gas in his fifth start as a pro. It took nine years be­fore that hap­pened again. Ryan Moore, the NCAA and US Am­a­teur cham­pion, did it in 12 events in 2005, helped might­ily by a run­ner-up fin­ish in the Cana­dian Open.

Only three other play­ers had done that since 1980, a short list that in­cluded Phil Mick­el­son, who won as an am­a­teur.

Now?

Spi­eth didn’t have a card on any tour in 2013 and ef­fec­tively se­cured his card in six tour­na­ments. Rahm got it done in three starts after he turned pro in 2016. What was the ex­cep­tion is not the norm, but it’s get­ting there.

Scott Ver­plank, who won the 1985 Western Open when he was an am­a­teur, watched the NCAA Cham­pi­onship in Still­wa­ter, Ok­la­homa, last spring and he couldn’t be­lieve what he was see­ing. And it wasn’t just his alma mater, Ok­la­homa State, win­ning the ti­tle. Just about ev­ery team that reached the quar­ter­fi­nals of match play had play­ers who looked like they were ready for the PGA Tour.

Charles How­ell III also went to Ok­la­homa State and keeps tabs on col­lege golf, “so I kind of knew what was com­ing”.

“All these guys were hit­ting the ball over 300 yards and they all putt great,” he said. “You get Justin Thomas come out and win a bunch. Jor­dan Spi­eth comes out and wins a bunch. So when they do that, then that’s a vet­eran’s job gone. That’s an­other vet­eran’s job gone. That’s just how it works.” Not en­tirely.

Golf doesn’t have a 53-man or 25-man ros­ter like the NFL or Ma­jor League Base­ball. And the beauty of golf is that no other sport can be so age­less. Re­mem­ber, Mick­el­son won last year when he was 47 at a World Golf Cham­pi­onship.

How­ell’s point was that it’s get­ting even more dif­fi­cult to win as tour cards go to younger and younger play­ers.

“When I first started on tour, the best play­ers were the older play­ers,” How­ell said.

Woods — again, the ex­cep­tion — was No 1 and on his way to four straight ma­jors in How­ell’s first full sea­son in 2001. But the top 10 in the world was filled with play­ers in their 30s — Mick­el­son and Vi­jay Singh, Ernie Els and Davis Love III, Colin Mont­gomerie and Hal Sut­ton.

“Now I’ve got­ten older, it’s shifted the other way,” How­ell said. “And the best play­ers seem to be the younger play­ers. So you go look now at all the guys that we talk about, that we fo­cus on — Jor­dan, McIl­roy, Justin Thomas, etc. These are all the young guys. And they’re the sport’s best.” — AP

Fla­mengo sign Uruguay mid­fielder Ar­ras­caeta Sound of si­lence as Qatar hit North Ko­rea for six

Cham­pion: Mar­cel Gra­nollers from Spain lifts the tro­phy at the Vieät Nam Ten­nis Open Ñaø Naüng City 2019 on Satur­day. He cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Ital­ian Mat­teo Vi­ola in the men’s sin­gles fi­nal. — Photo cour­tesy Vieät Nam Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion MI­LAN — Gon­zalo Higuain has made up his mind to leave ACMi­lan, coach Gen­naro Gat­tuso said on Satur­day amid spec­u­la­tion link­ing the striker to Premier League side Chelsea.Higuain joined Mi­lan on a sea­son-long loan from Ju­ven­tus in July with an op­tion to make the deal per­ma­nent, but he has strug­gled to set­tle at the San Siro, scor­ing eight goals in all com­pe­ti­tions.The 31-year-old again drew a blank in AC Mi­lan’s 2-0 Ital­ian Cup win over Sam­p­do­ria on Satur­day as sub­sti­tute Patrick Cutrone net­ted a dou­ble in ex­tra time.“When a player makes up his mind it be­comes hard to con­vince them oth­er­wise,” said Gat­tuso of Higuain.

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Youth­ful: Spi­eth didn’t have a card on any tour in 2013 and ef­fec­tively se­cured his card in six tour­na­ments. — P h o t o

Gior­gian de Ar­ras­caetaRIO DE JANEIRO — Fla­mengo have signed Uruguay in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder Gior­gian de Ar­ras­caeta from their Brazil­ian ri­valsCruzeiro.The Rio de Janeiro club se­cured Ar­ras­caeta on a five-year deal after re­port­edly agree­ing to pay 18 mil­lion eu­ros to prise the 24-year-old away from the Mineirao.“I want to share my hap­pi­ness at start­ing this new stage with ev­ery­body,” Ar­ras­caeta, who has been capped 17 times for Uruguay, said in a state­ment pub­lished by Fla­mengo on so­cial me­dia.“It’s an honor and it makes me enor­mously proud to know the ef­fort that Fla­mengo made to sign me. I came here to win ti­tles and make the fans happy.”Fla­mengo fin­ished sec­ond in the 2018 Brazil­ian Serie A stand­ings, eight points be­hind cham­pi­ons Palmeiras.

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