COMMENTARY | Sang Moon Bae won the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Sunday, May 19 for his first career victory on the PGA Tour. In doing so, he also became the eighth first-timer to win in 2013.
Needless to say, times are tough if you are a veteran player on the tour not named Tiger Woods.
This season has quickly become a type of resurgence on tour, beginning with Russell Henley's first win at the Sony Open in Hawaii last January. John Merrick accomplished the same feat at the Northern Trust Open one month later at Riviera. Two weeks later at the Honda Classic, Michael Thompson tasted the winner's circle -- and $1.08 million -- for the first time. Scott Brown quietly won the Puerto Rican Open during Masters week.
Kevin Streelman, while having turned professional in 2001 and a veteran in terms of tenure, finally broke through at the Tampa Bay Championship for his first win March 17. In April, The TPC Louisiana yielded another maiden-victory in the form of Billy Horschel at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Tour rookie Derek Ernst followed suit the following week at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
With Bae's victory in Texas, debut winners now account for a third of all winners on Tour this season. When you include the four additional victories from world No. 1 Woods, more than 50 percent of events on the PGA Tour schedule (12 out of 21 total) have either been won by the best in the world or a first-timer. I cannot find a year in recent history that the same can be said prior to 2013.
So what does this trend mean for past winners on tour? Simply put, the talent bar has been raised yet again.
Being an experienced winner on tour no longer makes you a favorite to win a tournament on any given week, at least this year. Forget about playing the odds. As the season has progressed up until this point, we are more likely to see either Tiger Woods or someone who has never won a PGA Tour event come out victorious than the opposite.
At last week's HP Byron Nelson, former major winner and Ryder Cup fan-favorite Keegan Bradley attempted to become the tournament's first wire-to-wire winner since Tom Watson in 1980. Former winners like Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Scott Piercy were in contention throughout the week, but it was Bae's perseverance and determination that earned him the victory over others who have been there, done that.
Of course, pure logical reasoning suggests the current trend is a bit of a fad. With 20 events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule, including the FedEx Cup Playoffs, a handful of former champions are sure to start winning again. Experience and time-tested methods have to count for something. Surely everything will balance out in the end.
Then again, nobody could have guessed that names like Henley, Merrick, Thompson, Brown, Streelman, Horschel, Ernst or Bae would have more PGA Tour wins in 2013 than names like Garcia, Westwood, McIlroy or Kaymer at this point in the season. If there is anything certain about the tour, it is that there is no such thing as a sure bet these days.
Adam Fonseca has been a golf writer and blogger since 2005. His work has been featured on numerous digital outlets including the Back9Network and SB Nation. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife. Adam can be found on Twitter @chicagoduffer.
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