Wednesday, January 12, 2011
On the eve of the first full field event on the PGA Tour, I'm excited about checking out the rookie class tomorrow and seeing how they will fair. There are 35 rookies on the PGA tour this year. 26 of them will tee it up tomorrow in the Sony Open. 13 of those rookies qualified by finishing top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list. In fact, 22 year old Jamie Lovemark finished top dog on the Nationwide money list and was the youngest to become the Player of the Year on that tour. In addition to being fully exempt all year long, Jamie will also tee it up in the Players Championship as the big perk for finishing #1.
There are a lot of young, talented rookies this year on the PGA tour. It's going to be hard to predict who will have the best season. Will it be one of the pedigreed players like Chris Kirk who was the Hogan Award recipient (given to top collegiate player) from Univ. of Georgia and who played on the 07 Walker Cup? Will it be Keegan Bradley who comes from a golfing pedigreed family? He is World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley's nephew. Jamie Lovemark made his mark in college quickly by winning the NCAA individual title as a Freshman. Or, will the best rookie be a surprise? Maybe the top rookie will be 31 year old William McGirt who has toiled around on various mini tours for the last 9 years before finally making it to the big show. Perhaps 20 year old Bio Kim will make his mark as the first Korean to become Rookie of the Year on the PGA tour.
What I love about the beginning of a season is all the possibilities.   I have a few favorites that I will be rooting for and think will play well. One is fellow Bruin Kevin Chappell and another is Nate Smith, who hails from my old stomping grounds of Santa Cruz. However, my gut feeling right off the bat is that Jamie Lovemark and Jhonattan Vegas will make big impressions on the PGA tour. Both of these guys are tall, strong, physical players. They hit it a long way, are fearless and seem to have the required mental game to match. Jhonattan is the first player from Venezuela to earn his tour car and he has a wonderful personality with a smile as big as his game. Jamie is a cool customer who wears his confidence on his sleeve.
Let's wait and see how the 26 rookies who play this week at the Sony Open handle Waialae Country Club and the exctiement and pressure that comes along with teeing it up alongside the best in the world. Everyone will be efforting to achieve that coveted great first start of the 2011 season.