Who didn't win last week's U.S. Amateur at East Lake was as
interesting as who did. Bryce Molder, the four-time All-America
from Georgia Tech, would have been the favorite because East Lake
is Tech's home track and he holds the course record, a five-under
65. But Molder, 22, turned pro three weeks ago after the Walker
Cup in what seemed like a puzzling move--until he signed an
endorsement deal with Nike and then almost won the Reno-Tahoe
Open in his PGA Tour debut. Molder was a shot behind Jerry Kelly
going into the final round, but both players watched 22-year
veteran John Cook race past them with a closing 64. Molder
finished third, two shots behind Cook, and won $204,000, which
gives him an outside chance at making the top 125 on the money
list. (He'll need to earn about $100,000 more.) "It feels good to
start the career I've always wanted," says Molder, who kept up
with the goings-on in Atlanta by watching television and checking
Luke Donald, the 1999 NCAA champ and an All-America at
Northwestern, was another no-show at the Amateur. After he led
Great Britain and Ireland to its first successful defense of the
Walker Cup, he joined Molder in the pro ranks at Reno. Donald,
who faces a bright career as a pro, opened with a 75 and missed
the cut by two strokes. The week wasn't a waste, though. Mark
O'Meara introduced himself to Donald on the putting green and
wished him luck. "I thought that was nice," said Donald.
Ty Tryon, the 17-year-old from Orlando, did play in the Amateur
but came up a loser. Tryon plans to enter Q school this fall and
hopes to play the Tour about once a month while finishing his
junior and senior years of high school. In the meantime he bombed
at East Lake, shooting an 80 in the first round of qualifying and
missing the cut despite a 68 the next day.
It appears likely that even if Tryon, who has made the cut in two
Tour events this season, makes it through Q school, he's not
going to be allowed to become a member of the Tour until he turns
18 next June. That's because the Tour's policy board is expected
to pass a resolution next week in Montreal setting 18 as the
minimum age for members. Under the proposal, players of any age
can enter Tour events, but their earnings will not count on the
The proposed rule has been pushed by Cook, a policy board member
and a friend of Tryon's. Cook's 15-year-old son, Jason, was a
teammate of Tryon's last season at Lake Highland Prep.
"Emotionally, I can't see how a kid that age could be ready for
this, although if any kid can do it, Ty can," says Cook.
"Basically, Ty got so far behind in school, he wasn't going to
catch up. The Tryons' thinking is: College will be like that,
too. Ty wants to focus on golf so much that anything else is
going to get in the way. I don't agree with that. This isn't like
tennis, where teenagers play against teenagers. In golf you're
playing against 20-year veterans who have families and mortgages,
and smile while they cut your heart out."
Then there's last year's Amateur champion, Jeff Quinney, another
also-ran at East Lake. Quinney lost the last three holes and his
quarterfinal match to one of his teammates at Arizona State,
Brian Nosler, and by the time you read this, he will be teeing
it up as a pro in the Air Canada Championship in Vancouver. As
for Nosler, he lost in the semifinals to Florida's Benjamin
(Bubba) Dickerson. Nosler plans to return to Arizona State to
finish his degree in geography but doesn't plan to play on the
golf team his senior year. "I already told my coach [Randy Lein]
I'm not coming back," says Nosler. "We had three guys graduate,
and 2 1/2 or three scholarships were open. I'm the Number 2
returning player, and I received nothing."
Robert Hamilton nearly won the Amateur. A long hitter who's been
working on his game since graduating from Cal in May 2000,
Hamilton was all square on the 36th tee in the final against
Dickerson, who proceeded to drop a four-iron shot to within 12
feet of the hole, a stroke of genius on the nasty 235-yard par-3.
Hamilton's tee shot buried in the left bunker, and he was en
route to a double bogey before Dickerson mercifully holed his
birdie putt to win the title.
Dickerson, a 20-year-old junior, was thinking about going pro,
but because the Amateur champ is invited to next year's Masters,
U.S Open and British Open, he'll head back to Gainesville for
another year. That's good news for Gators coach Buddy Alexander,
who was in Dickerson's gallery on the weekend and has enjoyed a
memorable year. "Last year was a nightmare," Alexander says. "We
didn't even qualify for the NCAA. This year, we win the NCAA as
a team, Nick Gilliam wins the individual title and now Bubba
wins here. It's been a nice run." Dickerson enjoyed a
Bubbalicious summer, winning the U.S. and Western amateurs, a
feat last accomplished by Tiger Woods. "If I have half the
career he's had," Dickerson says, "I'll feel good."
It is just as wrong to say, based on his play at Firestone, that
Tiger Woods is now back to 100% effectiveness as it was to say
previously that he was in a slump. Woods triumphed over an
unmotivated 38-man field at Firestone with, at best, his B game.
If the U.S. expects to win the Ryder Cup at the Belfry later this
month, it will need a grade-A performance from Woods.
What do these players have in common?
They are the only players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with
winning records in the match. Hoch is 2-0-1; Mickelson, 6-3-2;
and Sutton, 6-4-4.
In making his Ryder Cup captain's picks, should Curtis Strange
have selected Tom Lehman instead of Paul Azinger?
--Based on 4,404 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should the PGA Tour make 18 a minimum age for
membership? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
How could U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange have picked Paul
Azinger, 22nd on the points list, over No. 11, Tom Lehman?
Here's how Azinger and Lehman performed in the two years during
which Cup points were accrued.
Top 10s 2 6
Wins 1 1
Scoring Avg. 70.57 69.71
Top 10s 4 1
Wins 0 0
Scoring Avg. 69.72 71.20
Top 10s 1 3
Wins 0 0
Scoring Avg. 70.37 69.86
Top 10s 2 1
Wins 0 0
Scoring Avg. 69.38 70.86