Garrick Higgo's meteoric rise – he was 2,006th in the world rankings at the end of 2008 and his win in the Palmetto Championship moved him to a career-best 39th – has put him to the fore of a quite remarkable conveyor belt of talent emerging from South Africa.
Indeed, there are nine Springboks in the field for this week’s US Open at Torrey Pines with young guns Higgo (22) and Wilco Nienaber (21) fast-tracking their way into the big time.
Higgo’s capacity to win has been a standout of his accelerated progress. He has won seven times in two years – starting out on the developmental Big Easy Tour, then adding successes on the Sunshine Tour, the European Tour and now the PGA Tour – - in making a name for himself.
“I think I just enjoy the challenge. I enjoy playing. I’m a very tough competitor. I don’t really get down on myself. It’s a cliché, but I try and stay in the fight. I just do that really well. I wouldn’t say there’s something that I do that’s out of the ordinary which makes me special, just I’m a good competitor.”
Of the emergence of so much South African talent, he remarked: “South African golf couldn’t bet in a better spot. Obviously, internally, I believe I’m the best. You’ve got to.”
And, in a nutshell, an insight into why, time and time again, he has added one win after another in his short career!
Late blip costs Power a Travelers spot
Séamus Power will revert to the lottery of Monday qualifying – starting with The Travelers in a fortnight’s time – in his attempt to get into further tournaments on the PGA Tour.
The 34-year-old Waterford man had a rather costly spell late on in his final round of the Palmetto Championship (dropping three shots in his closing five holes, with a bogey on 14 and a double on 16) which deprived him of the top-10 finish that would have automatically got him into the Travelers.
“I didn’t do a whole lot wrong, just hit a couple of bad spots,” said Power, whose tied-19th finish earned him a cheque for $86,505 and moved him up eight places to 165th on the updated PGA Tour FedEx Cup standings. To regain his full tour card, Power would need to break into the top-125.
Of seeking to work out a playing schedule for the summer, he explained: "I'm not in the US Open. I won't be in the Travelers. I'm going to probably do a Monday qualifier for Travelers, look at the Korn Ferry schedule and hopefully get a little run going this summer on the PGA Tour."
Word of Mouth
"We'll have a catch-up on the range or whatever [at the Irish Open] but Rory's life is a lot busier than mine. He's a busy man and he lives on the other side of the world so we don't really keep in touch" - Jonathan Caldwell, winner of the Scandinavian Mixed tournament on the European Tour, on losing touch with Rory McIlroy, his 2007 Walker Cup team-mate. Caldwell's breakthrough win on tour (bringing a two-year exemption and opening doors into Rolex Series events) will allow the Co Down man to, as he put it, "re-evaluate goals and ambitions" going forward.
By the Numbers – 9,069
The hint is in the title, and entry into the US Open is open to any player – professional or amateur – with a handicap index not greater than 1.4. This year’s championship at Torrey Pines attracted an entry of 9,069 players (the eighth highest in US Open history) with a final field of 156 players taking to the course on Thursday for the opening round.
On this day: June 15th, 2003
Jim Furyk's quirky swing proved the most reliable of all when the heat was on in the 103rd US Open at Olympia Fields outside Chicago, as the American's final round 72 for a winning total of eight-under-par 272 gave him a three stroke margin over Australian Stephen Leaney.
Furyk remained focused on the task at hand. Even a streaker racing out onto the 11th green failed to distract Furyk, as he stubbornly stuck to his game plan of finding fairways and hitting greens. It was only late-on that the course hit back, but the damage of two closing bogeys proved only superficial as those in pursuit had troubles of their own.
“It’s beyond some dreams,” said Furyk after winning what would be his only Major title, with a swing taught to him by his father, Mike.
"After two negative tests in a 24 hour span and being cleared by health officials, it's time to get ready for the US Open. Vamous!!" – Jon Rahm - who was forced to withdraw prior to the final round of the recent Memorial tournament due to testing positive – on getting the all-clear to resume playing.
"Just got the call I'm headed to Torrey Pines to play in my 1st Major Championship! I'm really looking forward to the challenge Torrey South is going to be. Let's get this putter hot!!" – Zack Sucher on getting into the US Open field as the 156th man.
"Seeing @garrick_higgo win his first PGA Tour event in only his second start has been one of the most enjoyable things for me to witness in my career. He is without a doubt the most humble, well mannered young man that you could wish to meet. Watch this space, big things to come!" – Gary Player is clearly a big fan of the young Springbok.
In the Bag
Driver - Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees)
Fairway wood - Titleist TSi2 (15 degrees)
Hybrid - Titleist TSi3 (18 degrees)
Irons - Titleist T100 (4-PW)
Wedges - Titleist Vokey SM8 (52, 56 and 60 degrees)
Putter - Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5
Ball - Titleist Pro V1x
Know the Rules
Q At a professional tournament, a player is waiting to tee off when live coverage is shown on the nearby public screen which provides statistical information on how holes are being played and also wind direction and wind speed. Is the player in breach of the rules for receiving such information?
A No, since Rule 4.3a(4)/1 specifically covers such an eventuality. If a player views video that is being shown for the benefit of spectators at a golf competition, there is no breach watches the coverage or views the information, even if it could help the player in choosing a club, making a stroke or deciding how to play.