Joaquin Niemann won the Genesis Invitational last week in dominant, wire-to-wire fashion. He did it on one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour, against one of the strongest fields we’ll see all season and with a winning score of 19-under par — one stroke shy of Lanny Wadkins’ tournament record that has held up for 37 years. With the win, Niemann ascends to No. 20 in the world. He is just 23 years old.
The tour begins the Florida swing this week with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, the first of four events in the Sunshine State. When this portion of the schedule concludes, we'll be 18 days away from the Masters.
The year kicked off in Hawaii and rolled into the West Coast swing, which came to an end last week at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. The seven winners so far in 2022: Cameron Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Hudson Swafford, Luke List, Tom Hoge, Scottie Scheffler and Niemann. Four of the players on that list are still in their 20s.
Ten of the top 12 players in the world rankings are also in their 20s, including Scheffler (ninth), Matsuyama (10th) and Smith (11th).
Age and experience are things to consider in golf handicapping. In certain tournaments, those attributes mean more than in others.
At Augusta National, experience is certainly important. It was once thought that a player needed at least six visits there before being given a chance to win. With the young guns taking over the game, that idea has changed slightly. But the Masters remains a tournament requiring a great deal of wisdom.
The average age of the last 12 Honda Classic winners is 29. By contrast, the average age of the last 12 Masters winners is 32.
The average age of the top-15 players on the odds board for the Honda this week is under 30. I have made six outright plays to win this week, with an average age of 29 for my tickets.
The more difficult the golf course and the more prestigious the tournament, the more likely it is that age and experience will prevail. Phil Mickelson showed us that last year by winning the PGA Championship at a windy Kiawah Island, as did Tiger Woods in 2019 at the Masters. But as Niemann proved last week, the best players in the game are getting younger and younger. Keep the youth movement in mind in making your golf selections going forward.
Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered this week and those that I played:
Considered (3-4 in 2022)
— Aaron Wise (-110) over Cameron Young
— Sepp Straka (-105) over Dylan Frittelli
— Tommy Fleetwood (+ 110) over Billy Horschel
— Jhonattan Vegas (-120) over Mito Pereira
For the full breakdown of the Honda Classic and all of the plays from myself, Wes Reynolds, and Matt Youmans, check out this week's “LongShots” podcast at VSiN.com/podcasts, with special guest David Bearman of ESPN Chalk.