Sunday, May 2, 2010

Young Challengers to Tiger Woods

Sunday was truly not a Funday in Cheesehead land. The Milwaukee Bucks got eliminated from the NBA playoffs and the Milwaukee Brewers continued to struggle so I thought I would mix up the regular Sunday Funday article. Instead of highlighting a big moment in Cheesehead sports history, I am going to look at the potentially monumental shift that occurred in professional golf today.

Let's rewind two days to Friday, April 30, 2010. On Friday, Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship. Tiger shot his highest 36-hole total (153) of his career to miss only his sixth cut of his entire professional career. While Tiger was floundering, three potential golf superstars won professional tournaments around the world.

Alvaro Quiros (31st in the world as of May 2, 2010):
At the tender age of 27, Alvaro Quiros won the Spanish Open at the Real Club de Seville in Seville, Spain. Quiros defeated English rookie James Morrison on the first playoff hole to claim his 4th European Tour Title. Quiros shot a final round 2-under, 70 to finish at 11-under, 277. As if winning the Spanish Open in his native country was not enough, Quiros pocketed €333,330 or $444,000 (according to currency conversion rates on May 2, 2010) for a weeks work.

Ryo Ishikawa (38th in the world as of May 2, 2010):
18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa became the third player* to shoot a 58 on a major professional tour. Going into Sunday, Shigeki Maruyama lead The Crowns at the Nagoya Golf Club by 6 strokes. Ishikawa shot a historic 12-under, 58 in the final round of The Crowns taming the the Nagoya Golf Club (Par-70 that measured 6,545 yards).

Ishikawa finished the weekend at 13-under for a total of 267 strokes to win $255,000 and The Crowns by 5 strokes. Sunday's victory was Ishikawa 7th title on the Japan Golf Tour. Ishikawa recorded 12 birdies (on 9 of his first 11 holes and holes 14-16) and no bogies. To put Ishikawa's 58 in perspective, 59 was the best round recorded in a competitive tournament on the Japan Tour (Masahiro Kuramoto), PGA Tour (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, and David Duval), and LPGA Tour (Annika Sorenstam).

Rory McIlroy (9th in the world as of May 2, 2010):
Two days before his 21st birthday** the treasure of Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, won the Quail Hollow Championship and $1.17 million in Charlotte, NC.

On Friday, the same day that Tiger missed the cut, McIlroy was two shots over the cut line with three holes to play. At the tender age of 20, McIlroy could have folded to miss his 3rd cut in a row. Instead, McIlroy eagled the next hole and made the cut right on the cut line.

McIlroy shot a 66 on Saturday to put him in striking distance, but no one could have predicted McIlroy's magical final round. On Sunday, McIlory faced a 40-foot putt on 18 knowing a 3-putt would probably secure victory. As a result, McIlroy could have lagged the putt but instead he nailed the putt to win in style.

McIlroy shot a course record 10-under, 62 (beat the previous record by two strokes) in the final round. McIlroy also became the first person since Chris Couch in 2006 to be on the cut line and go on to win a PGA tournament. McIlroy finished the week at 15-under for a total of 273 strokes. The Quail Hollow Championship was McIlroy's first PGA Tour victory (won the Dubai Dessert Classic last year on the European PGA Tour at the age of 19).

Final Thoughts:
While I still think Tiger Woods will eclipse Jack's record of 18 majors, with PGA stalwarts (Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els) finding the fountain of youth and the aforementioned young studs setting records...the PGA Tour is getting more interesting than the details of Tiger's extra-marital affairs.

* In 2000, Shigeki Maruyama shot a 13-under, 58 in a U.S. Open qualifier at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD. In 2001, Jason Bohn shot a 13-under, 58 in the final round on the Canadian Tour to win the Canadian Tour Bayer Championship at Huron Oaks Golf Club in Sarnia, Ontario.
** Tiger Woods was 20 years old, 10 months when he won the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996 at the TPC Summerlin, Desert Inn in Las Vegas, NV

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