by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tours pulls into scenic Monterey, California this week and the players get to walk the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links at The A.T. &T. Pro-Am. Pebble Beach always steals the show here despite how many “celebrities” CBS tries to show on the television coverage. Pebble Beach is one of those courses that we love to watch and we all know many of the holes well from seeing it so much. We all know what to expect at Pebble Beach. The same can’t be said for the winners on the PGA Tour in 2011.
This year the tour’s list of winner’s is an eclectic mix of players that most golf fans wouldn’t recognize. This isn’t your daddy’s PGA Tour. We have no Tiger Woods on top as he missed his chance at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson teased us in his back yard at Torrey Pines but still no victory. The big names that the average fans think dominate the tour are trophy free so far this season.
The most well known golfer that has won this year is probably Bubba Watson. Watson claimed his second tour win by staying one shot ahead of Phil in San Diego but may be better known for the crazy videos he posts on Twitter.
The PGA Tour season started just as it ended, with a win by Jonathon Byrd. Byrd, 33, won the last tournament of the year and then kicked this year off with a win at the Tournament of Champions for his fifth career win. Byrd is good tour player but he is anything but a household name.
Mark Wilson took the second tournament of the year at The Sony Open and then doubled his pleasure with his win this week at The Waste Management Phoenix Open. Talk about a career year. He has had a great season but it has only taken him four weeks. Wilson’s two wins this year has doubled his career total. This 36 year old has been to Q-School ten times but won’t be back there anytime soon. Wilson is reaping the benefits of all the years he spent grinding and working on his game. He recently sought out the help of renown mental coach, Dr. Bob Rotella and the results are obvious. Wilson can close the deal now. With the depth of quality players on tour winning once a season on tour is significant, winning twice is amazing.
Maybe the most exciting story of the 2011 PGA Tour season is that of rookie Jhonattan Vegas. Vegas is a rags to riches story that has captivated casual and avid golf fans alike. Vegas is a twenty-six year old Nationwide Tour graduate that burst on to the scene with a win at the Bob Hope Classic. He followed that up by being in contention right down to the last hole at Torrey Pines. He’s tall, he’s big, he has a beautiful golf swing, and he’s Johnny Vegas. Few rookies have had such an impact on the image of the tour and Vegas has garnered plenty of publicity.
There you have the 2011 season: five tournaments, four winners, average age thirty-one and none of them named Tiger or Phil or Ernie or Vijay. Could it be the dawning of a new day on tour? Maybe it is, maybe not. But certainly this season shows that there are players ready to step up carry the tour and make it their own while the “big stars” search for their game. The casual fan may not recognize the leaders each week but that may be what the tour needs: new faces and names holding those trophies. So far this year that’s just what we have.