PGA Tour Confidential: The Byron Nelson Championship

Jason Day, final round, 18th hole, Byron Nelson Championship
Mike Ehrmann/SI
Start of something big? Jason Day celebrated his clinching putt on the 18th hole.

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

YOUTH MOVEMENT CONTINUES WITH DAY AND SPIETH
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Kids today, they grow up so fast. Jason Day, 22, won the Nelson, but Jordan Spieth, 16, stole the show. This continues the PGA Tour's season-long youth movement, which is threatening to become the year's dominant storyline. For years the LPGA has skewed young, but what do we make of the Tour suddenly turning into "Romper Room?" To help us make sense of this, and everything else, we're pleased to welcome author and historian Art Stricklin, who has written three books about Texas golf. OK, y'all, take it away.

Click here to submit a question for Alan's next mailbag.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I don't know, love to see the young guys play well, but as far as storylines, Els has won twice, Furyk twice, Stricker once and Mickelson's got the year's first major. There's a balance.

Shipnuck: Yes, the old guys are still hanging on, but this could be year one in a larger trend. Day is an example of the kids who grew up idolizing Tiger and adopted his dedication to the gym and practice tee and tried to emulate his manifest self-belief. There's a whole wave of youngsters out there who think they're supposed to peak when they're in their early 20's, and now they're starting to win.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The success of the kids is a manifestation of the Tiger Effect that is rarely discussed. People talk about TW's effect on TV ratings and such, but sometimes forget how many kids he inspired to take up the game. That's the real tragedy of his fall from grace.

Gorant: Agreed. Tiger set a new standard, and from now on that's the goal of every young player. Eventually they'll surpass him. I gave Day a lot of ink when he came off the Nationwide, where he showed not only power but a great putting touch, but it took him a couple of years to figure it out on the big Tour. Still, because he made the jump so young, he's now a winner at 22.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Great e-mail from the Tour about that Grayson Murray kid, also 16, making the cut on the Nationwide tour this weekend. He was the second youngest to make the cut out there. The first youngest, the Tour reminds us, was Gipper Finau, who was 16 years, 20 days at the 2006 Utah Energy Solutions Championship. Now, Gipper may end up breaking all of Tiger's records, but I don't know.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: This doesn't become a great storyline until one of the kids wins a major. The Tour holds 40-odd tournaments, and some of the kids are going to win from time to time.

Shipnuck: But they've never won like this — the Tour is on pace for a record number of twentysomething victors. Tiger's fall from grace isn't a tragedy to these guys; it's an opportunity.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Shipwreck nails it. Opportunity knocked, a bunch of new guys answered.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Amazing what a few years gap on birth certificate can mean. Kids like Rory and Jason got all of the inspiration from Tiger and none of the battle scars from facing him.

Morfit: Another weird byproduct of Woods is that guys sometimes think if they haven't killed on Tour in their 20s, they're a bust.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The explosion of youth achievement is not just Woods. It's life and it's everywhere. A 13-year-old just climbed Everest. Nothing surprises anymore.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The Tour's youth movement is a good subplot of the 2010 season, which we'll remember mainly for the Woods-Mickelson reversal of fortune. This tournament was a nice introduction to Jason Day, but we need to see him and the other young guys in contention more to really get invested in them. It was also exciting to see Matthew McConaughey in the final group.

Van Sickle: I'll be more impressed by the youth movement (if there is one) if they start doing it in the majors.

Morfit: It seems inevitable that one of these really young guys is going to go on a major run. The thing is, we keep waiting for it to happen, and it doesn't. Maybe it only seems inevitable because we're looking at it through our Tiger Woods glasses — if he did it, then some other kid is bound to follow. Adam Scott, the winner a few weeks ago, is a good cautionary tale.

HOW MUCH POTENTIAL DOES DAY HAVE?
Shipnuck: Let's talk about Day in a little more detail. There's a lot to like about his game and demeanor. Is he going to be a real force or just make a great living?

Morfit: His short game sets him apart, which is promising. Terrific putter, but also very handy around the green, and he seems to want it pretty bad. Very nice kid, too, much like McIlroy.

Art Stricklin: I vote for nice living. The only reason he lives in Fort Worth is because it has good airline connections to his home in Australia, plus his wife is from Ohio, and he sure didn't want to move back there. Modern pro. Lives near his mates; there's a large Aussie pro connection in North Texas. Wouldn't be surprised to see him miss the cut at Colonial, but at least he made a nice check for his one week's work.

Morfit: Day finished a shot out of a playoff at Colonial last year. I'd love to see him back up his Byron win with another at the Colonial this week, against a field that will include Phil Mickelson. I think two wins in a row or two in a span of a month or so would be reason to pay attention. Having written a long Jason Day profile for Golf Magazine in 2008, I'm as big a fan as the next guy, but we've seen too many flashes of brilliance from too many young studs not to be a little leery of hyperbole.

Gorant: Colonial is his home club, too. So he's got a chance.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: He's still got to show me something over a period of time. Hate to say it again, but the guy with the best short game won — again.

Herre: The kid did look pretty good around the greens.

Gorant: Day wasn't one of those guys who simply collected high finishes on the Nationwide in order to move up. He won tournaments. In fact, he was the youngest winner ever on that tour at 19 years and nearly eight months. That's a good sign.

Evans: Great living. That's what they're all playing for in the Tiger-Phil era. Day has a good swing and a nice macho thing going, but I would take Jim Furyk over him any day of the week as a partner in a four-ball.

Gorant: Right now yes, but in five years?

Godich: Good point, Farrell. And let's not forget some of the swings he made over the last four holes — left off the tee on 15, a tee ball on 16 that might have gone OB if it hadn't hit a spectator, the mis-hit off the tee on 18 followed by the yank into the water.

Van Sickle: Day was picked for greatness four years ago. He's got game, but he certainly faltered coming in every day. But hey, he's 22. He's got time to learn how to close. It was awfully windy on the weekend; it's hard to tell just how good he's going to be. I don't think he's in Rory's category, at least not yet.

Shipnuck: Yes, it's like playing skins, now Day has to "justify." I think we've all had our professional hearts broken by kids who didn't follow up after a breakthrough. But he's only 22 and has already been through his big slump, and he also recently got married. I think things are in place for him to take off from here.

Evans: Day hasn't lived long enough to be in a slump. He won when he was finally ready. Period. Golf is too hard to try to predict with any real accuracy who will be consistent from week to week, unless your name is Tiger Woods.

Forecast
PGA Tour News
Trips
Travel & Courses
Lessons
Tips & Videos
The Shop
Equipment News & Reviews