It's doesn't matter what Sam Saunders does in his golfing career, he will always be compared to Arnold Palmer. The grandson of the "The King," Saunders has had a rough go of it since he decided to leave Clemson University a year early to turn professional.
Unlike most tour pros on the PGA Tour, Saunders doesn't have exempt status, meaning he's at the mercy of tournaments to let him in. So far, getting into some of the top tournaments on tour hasn't been a problem. With Palmer's help, Saunders was able to play Pebble Beach, Bay Hill, and Muirfied Village, to name a few, just last season. The tough part was capitalizing on the exemptions, his best finish a tie for 17th at Honda Classic.
As you'd expect, the expectations for Saunders to succeed are sky high. While most second-year pros are just starting to get their sea legs, Saunders is living in a different universe, where every shot he hits is being being put under a microscope and compared to one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game.
While players can complain about having pressure on them, Saunders has an extra-heavy load to carry. But maybe this is the week the 24-year-old lightens the load a bit. After two rounds at Pebble -- a tournament he played just last year -- he's 7-under, just six shots off the lead going into the weekend.
For Saunders, this week is all about getting inside the top 25. Assuming he can do just that, he could find himself playing the following week. At this point, playing as much golf as possible is all that matters. Sure, the comparisons to Palmer will always be there, but if Saunders can get on a roll and get a couple of high finishes under his belt, there's a good chance he'll start to piece it all together and hopefully, finally, start to make a name for himself as Sam Saunders, professional golfer.
Saunders will always be Arnie's grandson. But if he wants to have a successful career, he needs to find a way to separate himself from his grandfather. A strong finish to his week in Pebble Beach would be the perfect place to start.