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Jay Busbee

The PGA Tour's biggest winners won early

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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The entire golfing world — well, the part that's not Tiger-only — spent much of the weekend focused on Jordan Spieth, the 16-year-old high school junior who made the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Classic. Spieth wasn't really a threat on Sunday — he missed 11 of 14 fairways en route to a 72 and a tie for 16th — but that's not really the point. His success, as well as that of 22-year-old tourney winner Jason Day, are a sharp reminder that if you want to be a big winner on the PGA Tour, you'd better start very, very early.

The only player to win a PGA Tour event prior to turning 20 was Johnny McDermott. Don't remember him? No surprise; he won the U.S. Open in 1911. Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans and Francis Ouimet all won in the early part of their 20th year, Sarazen twice.

But those guys are long, long gone. How about players since 1970? The youngest player to win a tournament since then was age 20 years, six months, and he took the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. His name? Phil Mickelson. Right after him comes a sprightly lad by the name of Tiger Woods, who won twice within two weeks in 1996 at age 20 years, 9 months.

The rest of the players since 1970 who won at age 21 or below are almost all world-beating familiar names: Seve Ballesteros, Scott Verplank, Sergio Garcia, Ben Crenshaw and Robert Gamez. (I said almost.) Rory McIlroy joined the club a couple weeks back. Also, some interesting notes: Woods won six times before turning 21, Garcia three times.

So here's the lesson: If you want to be a golf immortal, give yourself a head start on the field and win before you're able to drink. And if you're already past that point, well ... there's always your kids.

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