On the PGA Tour there is a definite changing of the guard going on and the good news is the new guys are not wearing Cue-Tip hats. For the first time in a long time it seems that all the hay that is being made out there is not from guys with foreign passports but by young or up-and-coming Americans.
Of the 20 sanctioned PGA Tour events in 2012, 17 of them have been won by Americans. Only 30 year-old Hunter “Wrap Arounds” Mahan has two wins. Other winners include guys with real game and engaging personalities like Brandt “Opie” Snedekar, John “?” Huh, Bubba “Are You Kidding” Watson, Ricky “Orange Futures” Fowler, and Matt “The Cheshire Cat” Kucher.
The freshest face of them all has to be Kootch, he is no newbie but his real talent finally seems to be jelling in his young 30’s. Characterized as an ATM by Johnny Miller, he has been the most consistent performer on the American scene for a good three years now. His Cool Hand Luke performance at The Players confirms that this man has the demeanor and the game to win on the biggest stages.
Kootch was always considered a “can’t miss” from when he won the U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill in 1997 and backed it up the next spring with two great rounds at The Masters with defending champ Tiger Woods and a tie for 14th at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. But it took a trip through all three of Dante’s levels over his 12 years as a pro, including a retreat stint on the Nationwide Tour, to find his ballast and his game. With the Open returning to Olympic this June and his ability to turn his drive in either direction to work against those side sloped fairways, Kootch has to be the favorite going in.
Let’s not forget that this is also a family man with sensible values. He approaches his game with an ever present smile and sufficient humility acknowledging how lucky he is to be making a living doing the thing he loves to do. Match that with competitive confidence and an ability to let all bad things slide off his back and you have something unique in the golf world today-a role model for your kids.
Then there is the Tropicana spokesman on tour, 23 year-old Ricky Fowler. As Eddie Murphy used to say about orange futures, “Feelin Good, Louis!”. Ricky is certainly feelin’ good about his game and his rapid ascension as a potential rival to that other 23 year-old Irish phenom.
What we have seen the last two weeks with his win at Quail Hollow and his riveting runner-up place performance at The Players is possibly the most charismatic American package of raw talent and competitive verve since Arnold Palmer. The swing, the sashay, the entire citrus package is original as well as commercially and competitively viable.
Throw Bubba and his transcendent performance at Augusta into this mix and you have to say that American golf has a new gulf stream blowing. Davis Love III has to be licking his Ryder Cup Chops right now working the Excel spreadsheet on potentials for his squad a Medinah this fall.