Youth is being served on the PGA Tour, but the old guard is going away.
The final three pairing in last week’s Workday Charity Open had an average age of 24. The winner, Collin Morikawa (TaylorMade TP5) is only 23 and early into the re-start of the PGA season he is emerging as a star, winning one tournament and finishing second in another. The key in last week’s Workday Charity Open was his ability to maintain his poise in a playoff round against Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x), who is a winner of one of the majors and 12 overall on the tour. Thomas is only 27. He is one of the top-ranked players in the world, losing to Morikawa on the third hole of their playoff battle.
The third member of the group – players were grouped in threes for the final round because of projected rain later in the day – was Viktor Hovland (Titleist Pro V1), who is 22. He is remembered for being the top amateur in the 2019 Masters, after which he turned pro. What is impressive about the Norwegian-born golfer is his ability to hit it long and straight off of the tee, easily eclipsing 300 yards. He registered his first pro win in the Puerto Rico Open in March.
The common denominator for the trio is they starred in the college ranks and have transitioned well to the professional ranks.
The three will be in the Memorial Tournament, beginning Thursday on the same Muirfield Village Golf Course as last week’s Workday Charity Open because of the re-worked 2019-2020 PGA schedule. It will be interesting to see how much the course can be tailored to make it more difficult than it was in the Workday Charity Tour. The pin placement will not be as friendly, but will that be enough? If the leaders are shooting anywhere from five-under par to seven-under par in the first round, it will essentially be much of what we’ve seen so far in the schedule since the tour re-started more than five weeks ago following the 91-day break because of COVID-19.
The first major of the season is the PGA Championship, beginning August 6 at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco starting, and the top players will begin their path toward that this week. All eyes will be on Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS), who has won this tournament a record five times. If he wins this week, he will set a record 83 PGA Tour wins. This will be Woods’ first tournament since the tour re-started in June.
Along with Woods, the spotlight will be on Bryson DeChambeau (Bridgestone Tour B XS), the rising star on the PGA Tour. DeChambeau will be watched to see if he can duplicate his talent on a tougher course and against tougher competition.
Then there the likes of Brooks Koepka (Titleist Pro V1x), Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x), Dustin Johnson (TaylorMade TP5x), Adam Scott (Titleist Pro V1), Matt Kuchar (Bridgestone Tour B X5) and the usual suspects. My longshot choices to win are Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X) and Patrick Cantlay (Titleist Pro V1x). They will fly under the radar, but are good enough to win.