Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Texas' Top Players

The "Fact or Fiction" feature in espn.com's golf section leads off this week with this: Chad Campbell is the best Texan golfer on Tour. We weren't too sure of that (neither were the four espn.com/Golf Digest participants, three of whom said "fiction"), so we decided to put together our own ranking of the best Texas golfers.

First thing we discovered is that, these days, the pickings are slim. Texas boasts one of the all-time best rosters of golf legends (Hogan, Nelson, Trevino, etc.), but today's Texan tour players are, well, not up to snuff.

Our rankings count only native Texans, by the way. And here they are, the best Texans on the PGA Tour at the time of this writing:

1. Chad Campbell. It's fact after all. Campbell is 19th in the world rankings and 21st in money. Although he hasn't won in a while, he's consistent and often in contention. He did win the Nissan Open playoff, although it's not an official victory because only two rounds were played.

2. Scott Verplank. He's more associated with Oklahoma than Texas, but he was born in Dallas. As consistent as they come. Second, 20th and 10th in his last three starts.

3. Justin Leonard. Leonard was the pick of the three espn.com panelists who didn't choose Campbell, on the strength of his major championship and his one win this year. The major was in 1997 - what have you done for me lately? Well, there's that victory this year. But there are also four missed cuts this year.

4. Bob Estes. Made every cut this year, usually finishing in the top half of the field.

5. Ryan Palmer. A couple good showings in Hawaii and at Doral, but also five missed cuts and a w/d.

See what we mean about slim pickins? Here's the Texan to watch: Jimmy Walker. Last year's Nationwide Tour money leader was injured at the start of 2005, but finished 17th last week at the MCI Heritage Classic. He's got a big game, a combination of booming drives and good putting. Walker is the guy who's going to put Texas golfers back on the map.

Best of the rest: Brian Gay, Sean O'Hair, Harrison Frazar, Danny Briggs, Hunter Haas. Hank Kuehne? Ol' Hank's missing the cut on an almost weekly basis these days.

We'll rank the all-time best Texas golfers soon.

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