After a short three-week off-season, the 2014-2015 PGA Tour kicks off October 9th at the Frys.com Open in sunny California. This season’s starting event is being held at the Napa Valley’s Silverado Resort.
However, if you’re looking to catch some of professional golf’s most established players out on the course in California this weekend, don’t hold your breath. This is because several of the biggest names in golf are sitting out this year’s season opener, causing some to call into question the significance of the Fall tournament schedule.
Although several golf superstars have already opted-out of the Tour’s first tournament, including Rory McIlroy, the Frys.com Open promises to be a prophetic tournament that could very well reveal the next round of rising golf stars. Burgeoning players who may have otherwise been overshadowed by superstars may now have the chance to grab the golf world’s attention. Such was the case last year at the 2013 Frys.com Open when Jimmy Walker Surprised everyone with his pivotal performance.
Fall’s Rising Stars
Jimmy Walker showed everyone watching last year why the PGA Tour’s fall tournaments are important to any golfer that’s got a desire to make a name for himself right out of the gate. The 35-year-old golfer was coming off of a tough winless streak, not posting a single win in 187 career starts before he took the title at the 2013 Frys.com Open. The win was a catalyst for Walker’s performance moving forward, as he went on to win a second time at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and then again less than a month later at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The phenomenal 2013-2014 season for Jimmy Walker culminated with his acceptance to the 2014 Ryder Cup Team, which marked his Ryder Cup debut. While many of his fellow players on Team USA struggled throughout the event, the Ryder Cup rookie still wrapped up the series with an excellent showing during Sunday’s singles, racking up a total of 2 ½ points with his Titleist clubs.
With Walker’s impressive rise to glory in the 2013-2014 season, one can’t help but look to this year’s Tour newcomers to see which players have the potential to go from little-known pros to household names.
Many eyes will be focused on rookie Justin Thomas, winner of the 2014 Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and recent recipient of a fresh PGA Tour card for the 2014-2015 season. Many golf fans and pros alike are already speculating that the fiery 21-year-old will be the player to watch throughout the upcoming season.
And let’s not forget about the other hopefuls taking to the course this weekend. Some formidable challengers to Jimmy Walker’s Frys.com Open title include 143 other professional golfers that will be competing for $6 million in total prize money, with the winner taking home just over $1 million.
Along with new competition also come old colleagues: Walker will be facing off against his two Ryder Cup teammates, Bridgestone sponsored Matt Kuchar and PING sponsored Hunter Mahan at the 2014-2015 season opener.
If we can learn anything from the tournaments that mark the start of the new PGA Tour season – only the second season in the so-called wraparound format – it’s this: rising stars are made early on in the Fall.