BOB WEST ON GOLF — Young stars continue to show PGA Tour clout

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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Those who pay more than passing attention to the PGA Tour know that winning a tournament is tougher than it’s ever been.

Between the uber-talented players pouring out of college and foreign stars coming from all over the globe, the game has never been played at such a high level by so many players.

Merely earning and keeping a PGA Tour card is arguably tougher than securing a roster spot in any other professional sport. Beyond that, golf’s top minor league — the Korn Ferry Tour — is overrun with guys who possess par-shattering skills.

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We were reminded once again this past weekend that youth is being served on the PGA Tour more than anyone could have projected 10 years ago. South Korean Sung-jae Im became the fifth tournament winner 23 or under since Matthew Wolff’s shocking victory in in the 3M Open last July.

Wolff, who came out of the Oklahoma State golf factory, was 20 and making only his fourth PGA Tour start when he eagled the 72nd hole to edge Collin Morikawa. Morikawa, 23, had to wait a whole month before securing his first win in the Barracuda Championship. It was his sixth tour start.

Since then 21-year-old Chilean Joaquin Niemann hoisted the championship trophy in his 44th PGA Tour event — the Military Tribute at Greenbrier — and Wolff’s Oklahoma State teammate Viktor Hovland, 22, came up a winner in his 17th start at the Puerto Rico Open.

Im, who will be 22 on March 30, followed up with his impressive victory at the Honda Classic in his 50th start. Im had been knocking on the door for a while, after winning at age 19 on the Korn Ferry Tour and being the 2018-19 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

The Honda victory boosted Im to No. 25 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Morikawa weighs in at 52, followed by Hovland at 61, Niemann at 76 and Wolff at 111. For perspective, PNG ex Andrew Landry, who picked up his second PGA Tour victory last month, is 109.

This, basically, is what Tiger Woods hath wrought as a dominant and appealing superstar to kids worldwide for so many years. Though Tiger is late on the back nine of his career, his ongoing gift to the game is a depth of young talent that could never have been envisioned before he came along.

Experience still counts in golf, especially in the majors, but week-to-week on the PGA Tour it’s a true dogfight. And the pups will continue to bark louder and louder.

Golf news should be emailed to Bob West’s column is sponsored by 5 Under Golf Center.