Back to work on the PGA Tour
Names to watch as new wraparound season kicks off in California
On Thursday, the 2013-14 PGA Tour season kicks off at the Frys.com Open at the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif. The field is loaded with veterans looking to get a fresh start in the new wraparound season and rookies eager to get their careers off the ground on the big tour.
Hideki Matsuyama is in the field after posting a 1-3-1 record in his first Presidents Cup. Since turning pro in April, the 21-year-old Japanese native has had six top-25 appearances on the PGA Tour, including a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open and a tie for sixth at the Open Championship.
With a résumé that includes a silver medal as the low amateur in the 2011 Masters and four wins in Japan, Matsuyama carries the highest profile of the new crop of tour players. An enthusiastic Japanese media will follow his every move.
Tiger Woods heaped praise on Matsuyama after playing with him in August at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
"[Hideki] has a boatload of talent," Woods said. "He knows what he's doing out there. And the more time he is out here, the older he gets, he will develop more shots. The talent is there."
Paired with Adam Scott in the first session of the Presidents Cup, Matsuyama demonstrated that he could handle pressure by hitting an 8-iron to two feet to gain a halve for his team.
Matsuyama is reminiscent of Ryo Ishikawa, another Japanese prodigy, who is also in the field this week after retaining his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour Finals.
Here are seven other players worth watching closely this week and throughout the PGA Tour's fall schedule:
The 24-year-old former NCAA champion from LSU earned his PGA Tour card with six top-10s on the Web.com Tour, but he must feel like he already belongs on the big tour. Last year in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, the Fort Worth, Texas, native was in contention to win late in the final round before finishing in a tie for fourth. That finish landed him a spot in the Masters in April, where he tied for 60th. Later that month, he had a tie for eighth in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. As an amateur in 2011, Peterson finished in a tie for second at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational.
When the 39-year-old Greenville, N.C., native won the 2006 Reno-Tahoe Open for the first of his two PGA Tour titles, he was best known as the surfer and skateboarder who got serious about golf in his mid-20s after failing as a hammock salesman. MacKenzie is still up for a good time, but he's had his share of trials after losing his card following the 2010 season. Since then, he's been trying to fight his way back onto the regular tour through the Web.com Tour, finally doing it this year with a 15th-place finish on the money list.
In 2013, Russell Henley, Harris English and Patrick Reed all won on the PGA Tour. At some point in their Georgia careers, all three were teammates with Swafford. After finishing 21st in the Web.com Tour Finals, the 26-year-old Tallahassee, Fla., native will finally join his buddies on the tour and get his first career regular tour start at the Frys.com Open.
The 25-year-old former Oklahoma State star wasn't even born when his father, Bob Tway, famously holed his bunker shot at the 1986 PGA Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, to beat Greg Norman by two shots. Kevin is trying to make his own name after winning the Boise Open on the Web.com Tour in July.
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Golf is hard, especially on the PGA Tour, where good is rarely enough to make a living. After winning the 2005 John Deere Classic in his rookie year, O'Hair seemed on his way to superstardom. In 2009, when he had 10 top-10s, including a win at Quail Hollow, he made the Presidents Cup team. But by the time he took his fourth win at the Canadian Open in 2011, his game was already in steep decline. In 2013, he missed 15 of 22 cuts and earned just over $268,000. A 16th-place finish in the Web.com Tour Finals saved his card for at least another year for a career that once seemed like it was assured of consistency and regular contention in major championships.
Before his win in the Hotel Fitness Championship, the first of the four-event Web.com Tour Finals, in early September, the South African's last victory of any kind was the 2008 Masters. With his five-year exemption for taking that green jacket set to expire at the end of the year, he needed to finish inside the top 125 on the money list to maintain his all-exempt status. But he missed half his cuts this season and was forced to play the Web.com Tour Finals. Immelman is far from his 2008 form; after the win last month, he missed his next three cuts in the Web.com series.
In the 2009 Frys.com Open, Lovemark was in a sudden-death playoff with Rickie Fowler and eventual winner Troy Matteson. The following year, Lovemark won on the Web.com Tour and led its money list. Many onlookers expected him to compete for the 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, but a back injury derailed those hopes and had some wondering if he was a bust. Lovemark is finally healthy again, and in July, he won the Midwest Classic on the Web.com Tour. As one of the most physically gifted players in the game with a tight end build -- 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with a 314-yard driving average -- the 25-year-old should be a fixture on tour for many years.
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