Letter from America_WC

USA Walker Cup Team

Letter from America_WC

by Tadhg Harrington

12th September 2019

Victos Viderent Venerunt, they came, they saw, they conquered. Is there a seismic shift in how golf is being taught in the States? Three college kids earn PGA Tour cards within weeks of coming on Tour, the next wave of apprentice gunslingers annihilate our best on terrain akin to the moon for them. How are these kids so damn good?

Walker Cup –
a sign of things to come?

Those trousers? –
you better be able to play!

The Walker Cup this year was an eye-opener in terms of where golf seems to be heading for the future. Youth has flourished to such an extent that a 17-year-old left-hander playing Walker Cup hardly raises an eyebrow in the high-powered world of top-class amateurs in a hurry to play on the PGA Tour. Ashley Bhatia is that junior golfer who after beating the current British Amateur champion, James Sugrue, 4&2 in the Sunday afternoon bloodbath for the GB&I team will now take his chance in the big leagues. Five of the current American Walker Cup team will join the play for pay ranks with Brandon Wu (22), Steven Fisk (22), Alex Smalley (22) and Isaiah Salinda (22) all joining Ashley heading to the promised land. They will rely on some invitations to play in the Fall series events and a trip to Tour school to earn the right to play on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Sunday afternoon bloodbath.

The Walker Cup itself was unusual in that it was a very close affair (normal) for three of the sessions with GB&I leading after day one by two points. The Americans clawed it back to just one behind after winning the morning foursomes on Sunday but then the afternoon was a sea of red as the Americans routed the GB&I team to win eight of the ten singles. Some of the scorelines were less than flattering for the GB&I team.

The adaptability of players?

The explanation seems to be the adaptability of young modern players to varying conditions and different types of golf courses. Having played Royal Liverpool many times, it is challenging around the greens with the runoffs resembling the surface of the moon. You will rarely get a level lie to chip from and are always faced with several different shots you could play to get close to the hole. That and the wind factor would have you thinking that home advantage should win the day. American team captain, Nat Crosby, (son of Bing Crosby!) put it best when asked about young Ashley during the practice rounds, “I’m looking at how he’s navigating the wind with especially the crosswinds. He’s giving it enough height and enough borrow, he played nine holes and picked it up so immediately that you just stay out of the way. These guys are so talented, and they’re so instinctive even though it’s a foreign type of golf. I guess six of the guys haven’t played over here, six of the 10, but they pick it up very quickly.”

The Rise of the Machine!

This is all down to the “rise of the machine.” I doubt that genetically young modern golfers are any better than their predecessors but access to modern technology, better coaching, embracing golf fitness and a general “can do” attitude has seen a spike in young golfers achieving some incredible feats.

Instagram World

These young players are living in the Instagram world of PGA Tour stars living the dream (thongs and all!), and they want some too. They see the prize in all it’s technicolor glory, the “Spring Breaks” with Rickie, Jordan, Justin, and Smylie. They never see Smylie Kaufman falling off a cliff, struggling to find a game that has utterly deserted him to such an extent that he struggles to break 80. As Smylie said recently, “It sucks being really good for so long and feeling like I forgot how to play.” Smylie, Norman Xiong, Ty Tyson, (the list is endless of “can’t miss superstars”) and all the other occupants of the graveyard of hopes and dreams are swept aside in the “swipe right” world of the internet.

Rookie Kid.

As we approach another Tour season, a 21-year-old rookie kid is favorite to win the opening event, at Greenbrier. It is hard to temper the enthusiasm of young players when they see three of their own running riot on the PGA Tour. Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa have already won tour events, literally weeks after turning pro with no status, relying on a number of invitations. Unheard of before. Both tee it up with full status for the coming season as they chase some of that 23 million dollars that Player of the Year, Rory McIlroy, put in his back pocket.

Viktor Hovland.

The much-hyped former world number one amateur, Viktor Hovland, he of the mythical “second coming,” has been asked many questions so far and has answered all with aplomb. He played solidly on Tour without winning, a tied 4th being his best finish in the limited number of events he could play in. He earned nearly $700K before just missing out on a tour card, so a trip to the Korn Ferry playoffs was needed. Three pressure-filled 72 hole tournaments leave no room for luck. They are designed to reward consistency with 213 holes separating the men from the boys. Viktor led both the first two events, finishing 11th and 2nd to secure his full PGA Tour card. He even had the luxury of not having to play the final event.

Ryder Cup qualification.

His career starts Tiger Woods like as the bookies expect him to win soon. He has an invite to play next week in the flagship European Tour event, the BMW PGA Championship, where the Ryder Cup qualification process starts for the European team. No prizes for guessing who Viktor, who hails from Norway, will be playing with at Wentworth!

Captain Marvel

It is against this backdrop that golf fans must be drooling for the coming season as Captain Marvel himself has just been handed another big chip for his broad shoulders after his peers voted Rory, Player of the Year. DJ, Justin, Rickie, Jon Rahm, the list goes on and on of predators waiting for fresh bait to enter the fray. The sharks are circling, and there is no shortage of willing young participants wanting some of their filthy lucre.

As I remarked to a client lately, it would be easier to get to the moon than become a successful PGA Tour professional, the competition is that strong, and it seems, getting stronger. 

The number for Elon Musk anyone?

Thank you for taking the time to read! It is greatly appreciated. Follow our Ryder Cup Captain at our dedicated Ryder Cup page and over at his website. Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my FREE monthly digital magazine. Finally, you also have a chance to win a dozen Titleist Pro V1’s each & every month. Tadhg.

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