Billy Horschel became the latest first-time winner on the PGA Tour over the weekend by capturing the 2013 Zurich Classic of New Orleans. His story is becoming common among Tour players these days.
Horschel's victory made him the fifth (!) first-time winner on Tour this 2013 season. Russell Henley started the 'new guy' trend at the Sony Open in Hawaii back in January. John Merrick won his first event at the Northern Trust Open one month later, followed by Michael Thompson's victory at The Honda Classic in late-February. Chicago-born Kevin Streelman got his first taste of victory at last month's Tampa Bay Championship, and now Horschel rounds up the group with his Sunday achievement.
Parity in professional golf has become a hot topic among golf fans and players alike, but it is quickly becoming more obvious that the talent pool is much deeper than we have previously thought.
Granted, as the Tour's old slogan reminds us all, these guys can play. It's not like the tournaments mentioned above are your typical country club hit-and-giggle, either. These are full-field tournaments with many of the top-10 players in the world competing all four days. Former (and in some cases, defending) Major champions were hot on the heels of the eventual winners.
It would appear, however, that the NFL slogan of "Any Given Sunday" is more fitting for the PGA Tour these days. Five new winners in 19 events might not seem like a lot, but it is an avalanche compared to recent years dominated by the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and practically all of Europe.
To stick with the football analogy, winning a PGA Tour event is similar to winning an NFL Playoff game and everything before. True, players either qualify for or are invited to play in the tournament. Some might be defending champions and have earned special exemptions. Others pay their own way. When 'gametime' comes, however, players are given 36 holes to play as best as they can to even think about playing on the weekend. It is basically a 'win or go home' situation.
If they survive until the weekend, only a small percentage of players actually have a chance at winning the tournament (or 'game'). Most are closer to the cut-line than the first page of the leaderboard. Many players have never won. It is a franchise/career-changing opportunity to win on Tour, and all it takes is to play better than 50-plus others trying to do the exact same thing.
Five players who have never accomplished their goal have finally broken through, all in the same season. Comparatively, that's like five rookie quarterbacks winning a playoff game in the same year. Which will never happen. Ever.
The best part? We're only in April.