Age only a number at PGA Championship, and youngsters show they can produce better ones

By Nancy Armour, AP
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Young stars are par for the course at PGA

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Move aside, veterans. Golf’s youngsters are making the PGA Championship their coming out party.

Of the top six players on the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round, five are in their 20s. None has won a major.

“There’s some really good players that haven’t won a major,” said Nick Watney, who took a three-stroke lead into the final round. “And all the guys that have, at one point they hadn’t won, either. So you’ve got to start somewhere. And hopefully, tomorrow will be my day.”

He got off to a rough start, his lead disappearing on the very first hole. Watney, who was practically perfect Saturday, chunked his shot out of a greenside bunker, advancing maybe 15 yards and into heavy rough. He then two-putted for a double bogey. When Dustin Johnson, who collapsed after being the 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open, made an easy birdie, he and Watney were tied at 11 under.

While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are still the top two players in the world, there’s a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings in a hurry to join them. What better way than by winning a major championship.

Johnson and Rory McIlroy, two of the most talented young players on either side of the Atlantic, are also in contention at Whistling Straits. And while they’re young — Johnson is 26, McIlroy is 21 — they play much, much older. Johnson had his chance at Pebble Beach, while McIlroy matched the major championship record with a 63 in the first round at the British Open.

McIlroy wound up tied for third at St. Andrews — the same spot he finished at last year’s PGA Championship.

Jason Day, a 22-year-old from Australia, and 25-year-old Martin Kaymer each birdied their second hole to join McIlroy at 10 under.

“(The past results) give me a lot of confidence to know that if I am in these major championships, I’m good enough to hold my own with the best players in the world,” McIlroy said.

Speaking of those best players, Mickelson got to 7 under with an eagle on No. 5 and three straight birdies on the back nine. But he is still well behind the leaders.

Woods got off to a quick start with birdies on three of his first four holes. But he bogeyed No. 6 after his second shot landed in a bunker in front of the green and his third landed in the crowd behind the hole. He turned a birdie chance into a bogey with a three-putt on No. 9 and double-bogeyed the 10th after hooking his tee shot, putting him 1 over for the day.

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