In the Dallas area, 11-year-old Scott Scheffler was crushing competition on the North Texas PGA Junior Tour. There were wins at Shady Valley, The Links at Water Chase, Lantana GC, and eight hits over Vince Whaley at Twin Creeks GC.
Down Bayou Country, 11-year-old Sam Burns was shooting the 84th annual Shreveport (Louisiana) amateur. Finished the top five.
In Scotland, Rory McIlroy, an 18-year-old from Northern Ireland, was an amateur at the Carnoustie Open. Rounds 68-76-73-72 were sent notice that this kid might be doing too well.
With rounds 72-70, 14-year-old Justin Thomas from Kentucky finished second in his age group, and third overall, at the Evian Masters Junior Cup in France. One of the advantages of winning was that he played alongside Juli Inkster in a pro match before the Evian Masters.
And on the other side of the world, in Hawaii, a 15-year-old Japanese player named Hideki Matsuyama dominated his game against Henry Park, 6 and 5, to help the visitors take a 24.5 to 19.5 win at Hawaii/Japan Jr. Glass.
Those were the stages played in the shadows, of course. On the stage that matters, the older man, 31-year-old Tiger Woods, was collecting his fourth US PGA Championship in the South Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ho-hum Perhaps that, since it was his 14th major, what definitely resonated with Woods’ achievement at the end of that summer. With an overwhelming performance in the inaugural FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, Woods earned $10 million.
What stands out in that 2007 Tour Championship that stood out in the first FedEx Cup were the stifling numbers. Woods won the season finale by eight strokes, his 61st career win and seventh of the season, finishing the Tour Championship at 23 under 257.
“It’s been an extraordinary week,” Woods said, and then he was at his best. After all, he also got a check for $1.26 million to win the Tour Championship.
“I enjoyed being on a winning streak, good shot after good shot, and I felt very comfortable in my game. I felt good.”
It was then and this is now, and what’s remarkable is how fast time has passed and how surreal it is to find out: After only 15 years of golfing on mostly unknown stages as children, 26-year-old Schaeffler (it’s now Scotty) , unlike 2007), Burns, 26; McIlroy, 33 years old; Thomas, 29; Matsuyama, 30, was numbers 1-2-3-4-5 in the FedEx Cup standings when the calendar turned to July.
The flip side of Woods now 46 is the fact that the game is getting younger, and oh, how the current FedEx Cup standings reflects that. After Schaeffler, Burns, McIlroy, Thomas and Matsuyama, we have Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Smith, Xander Shaveli, Will Zalatores, and Max Homma.
Average age of these 10 players: 28.5.
That’s more than four years younger than the average age in 2007, the first FedEx Cup when seven of the top ten were aged 31 or older. This time, eight of the current top ten are aged 30 or younger.
But if this youth parade includes many protesters, the warmest spotlight must be on the leader, the same kid who 15 years ago was dominating the North Texas Junior PGA competition.
All Schaeffler has done this season, his third full season on the PGA Tour, is win four times and move up the Penthouse in the official World Golf Rankings.
Not bad, this is a first rating. But some would argue that Burns is No. 1A, because all he has done is win three times before, and if you go back to the middle of the 2020-21 season, Burns has racked up wins in four of his last 29 championships.
The loud noise I heard was the arrival of the Scheffler Burns Express; They’re two good young guys who, as if nipping their new grip on the PGA Tour, had an exclamation point for a Sunday in May.
In a playoff in the Charles Schwab Challenge, Burns poured a long-range birdie into the first extra hole to defeat his friend from Texas.
Even Schaeffler grinned that day, nodding his approval at Burns, realizing that there would be many opportunities to return the favor. Maybe even as soon as the next FedEx Cup games. These are the important dates: August 11-14 at the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis; August 18-21 at the BMW Championship in Wilmington, Delaware; and August 25-28 at the Tour Championships in Atlanta, Georgia.
They are tournaments that showcase the best of the elite, and while you would understandably expect them to put Scheffler in awe as a 24-year-old rookie in August of 2020, it just didn’t work out that way. In the second round of the playoffs, Schaeffler fired 59 at TPC Boston.
He didn’t win that week, but the fourth set tie moves into a nice playoff – a 20-tie tie at BMW, and fifth in the Tour Championship. The three who finished directly ahead of him in the 2020 FedEx Cup standings – Shaveli, Thomas and John Ram – are the main contenders for the 2021-22 FedEx Cup as a dynamic era of young and talented people continues into the 16th edition of this season – a long sprint.
It’s amazing, the sheer speed with which these kids from junior golf are progressing to the FedEx Cup spotlight. Then again, someone might have seen it coming. Joel Edwards, for example.
A veteran PGA Tour performer, Edwards was at the height of his career when he used to train at the Royal Oaks in Dallas where Scheffler was the brightest and most talented junior player.
Precocious and extremely talented, Schaeffler would challenge Edwards and another PGA Tour expert, Harrison Frazer, to random contests. Frazer asserts that he lost the golf ball sleeves of a fourth-grader; Edwards admits, “It cost me a fortune; I was holding a bunch of quarters because I knew I was going to win my ass [in a bid to hit practice-range poles with wedge shots]. ”
And if there was one thing that stood out about Schaeffler at the time, even besides his uncanny golf skills, it was his appearance.
“He always wore pants,” Edwards said. “He looked like a 10-year-old tour player.”
And at the age of eleven, while mowing the domestic competition, Schaeffler probably knew that an all-new FedEx Cup would one day be in his future.