PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Jack Nicklaus is among those who believe the competition has never been deeper on the PGA Tour.
Xander Schauffele is an example of how it’s never been younger.
The 23-year-old from San Diego was No. 352 in the world when he earned the final qualifying spot in Tennessee for the U.S. Open, and then he tied for fifth at Erin Hills. A month later, he calmly hit a pitching wedge to 3 feet on the par-3 closing hole at The Greenbrier for his first PGA Tour victory.
Schauffele became the eighth player under age 25 to win on the PGA Tour this year, the most dating to 1970 when the tour began compiling complete records. That also makes 12 victories this season _ just over one-third of all PGA Tour events _ by players who have yet to turn 25, with Justin Thomas winning three times, and Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama each winning twice.
This year’s group and their ages when they won: Thomas (23), Spieth (23), Matsuyama (24), Jon Rahm (22), Cameron Smith (23), Si Woo Kim (21), Daniel Berger (24) and Schauffele (23).
The previous record for most players under 25 to win in a season was last year when seven players won eight times (Spieth won twice). Two years ago, the under-25 group also recorded eight victories, though Spieth did most of the damage with five of them, including two majors.
It’s quite a contrast to another year in which players under 25 recorded eight victories. That was in 1999. Tiger Woods (23) won all of them.
So not only is it an example of a strong youth movement, they are sharing the wealth. And there are still 12 tournaments remaining.
LEFTY’S STREAK: Phil Mickelson wasn’t at his best at The Greenbrier, though he had at least made the cut. That was a big deal, even for a 47-year-old who already has five majors among his 42 victories on the PGA Tour.
“I have made every cut this year so far, so I had a good feeling going in that I was going to do it,” Mickelson said.
In 25 years, Mickelson has never made it through an entire season without missing a cut, and this is the fourth deepest he has gone in the year. He only has four tournaments remaining with a cut _ two majors and two FedEx Cup events
In 2011, Mickelson didn’t miss a cut until The Greenbrier, when it was held the last weekend in July. In 2006, he didn’t miss a cut until the International in August. And the closest Lefty came to going cut-free for an entire season was in 2005, when he finally missed the cut in Las Vegas, his final event of the year.
WESTWOOD SPLIT: The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday that Lee Westwood is leaving International Sports Management and longtime manager Chubby Chandler, and now will be managed by IMG.
The Telegraph said ISM confirmed the split but would not comment further.
Chandler signed Westwood and Darren Clarke as the cornerstone of his agency in 1991. Westwood reached No. 1 in the world in 2010, while Clarke won his only major a year later at the British Open. Westwood joins a group of players who have left ISM in recent years that include Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel.
The 44-year-old Westwood has slipped to No. 57 in the world, though he was runner-up at the Masters a year ago.
PRESIDENTS CUP UPDATE: Two months remain to make the Presidents Cup team, and while that includes five big-money events _ two majors, a World Golf Championship and two FedEx Cup events _ the U.S. standings are less volatile because they are based on FedEx Cup points (2 points for every dollar earned).
What appears likely is this American team will have plenty of new faces.
Five of the top 10 in the current standings have never played in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup _ Justin Thomas (3), Daniel Berger (4), Kevin Kisner (5), Kevin Chappell (9) and Brian Harman (10). Of the five players immediately behind them, only Brendan Steele at No. 14 has never played in a cup.
The final qualifying event is after the second playoff event at the TPC Boston, which ends on Labor Day. U.S. captain Steve Stricker will get two picks.
The question is will he use one on Phil Mickelson?
Lefty has now gone four years since his last victory. He has never missed a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup since 1994, when he was a captain’s pick. Mickelson needed a pick for the 2015 matches in South Korea, though the U.S. team was adamant he be with them.
The Presidents Cup starts Sept. 28 at Liberty National.
“It is a big goal of mine to make it on that team,” Mickelson said last week. “I’m a member at Liberty National. I love the golf course. I love playing golf in the metropolitan area and would love nothing more than to be on that team and continue the streak. After having received a captain’s pick last time, I feel it’s important I make it on my own. I’ve got six events to make this team … and I am going to be putting everything I can into it to get on that team.”
The International team is based on the world ranking. Only three of the top 10 have never played in the matches _ Si Woo Kim (7), Emiliano Grillo (9) and Hideto Tanihara (10). Right behind them are Adam Hadwin, Byeong Hun An, Yuta Ikeda and Jeunghun Wang, neither of whom have played in the Presidents Cup.
LIFE OF RILEY: Chris Riley found a way to stay involved in golf without having to cope with the grind of the PGA Tour. Riley has taken over as golf coach at the University of San Diego.
Riley, whose last full season on the PGA Tour was in 2011, told Golf Digest he spent the last couple of years volunteering as an assistant coach to Dwain Knight at UNLV, where he played.
“He let me shadow it and be part of the program. I fell in love with it,” Riley told Digest for a story on its website. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do next.”
Riley, who grew up in San Diego playing junior golf with Tiger Woods and was his fourballs partner in the 2004 Ryder Cup, won the Reno-Tahoe Classic in 2002 for his lone PGA Tour victory. He reached as high as No. 22 in the world in 2004 after losing in a playoff to John Daly at Torrey Pines.
He said his game was in decline and his daughters (Taylor and Rose) were getting to an age where he wanted to be at home.
“I slowly faded away from professional golf,” Riley told Digest. “I kicked back a couple years while I figured out what I what to do next. I’m going to be 44 years old. I was at the point that I didn’t want to be a hanger-on. I had such an incredible run. So I focused on doing something else.”
DIVOTS: For the third straight week, the strongest field in golf is found on the European Tour. The Greenbrier Classic didn’t have a player from the top 20 in the field last week, and the John Deere Classic has only one _ Daniel Berger at No. 20. … South Korean players have won eight of the 18 events on the LPGA Tour this year. … Davis Love III has asked Tom Kite to introduce him when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Presidents Cup this year. Kite was inducted in 2004. … Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama are the only players who have won PGA Tour events this year while ranked in the top 10.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Stewart Cink in 2009 is the last player to win the British Open without having played the previous week. Cink is playing the Scottish Open this year on a sponsor’s exemption.
FINAL WORD: “After I won in 2014 … I thought I was going to win 15 more events. You know, life doesn’t happen that way. Life doesn’t happen the way you plan it out.” _ Michelle Wie, who has not won since her U.S. Women’s Open title in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2.