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Monday, June 29, 2009
Welcome to the latest episode of “The Return of The Can’t Miss Kids.”
First it was Bryce Molder, the four-time All-American at Georgia Tech, who finished T-2 at the St. Jude Classic.
Then a week later 2002 U.S. Amateur champ Ricky Barnes lit it up at the U.S. Open before coming back to earth and finishing T-2.
And this past weekend we watched 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up Casey Wittenberg make his first top 10 of the season at the Travelers Championship. He finished T-7, breaking a string of seven missed cuts.
I spoke with Wittenberg at Memphis, a day after he qualified for the U.S. Open and he was in good spirits. He acknowledged that it has been a challenge as a Tour rookie who graduated from the Nationwide Tour to get in many tournaments early in the season.
“You see people making a lot of money and you’re falling behind and it’s frustrating,” he said.
Most of his explanation for his struggles to date was generic: the competition is stiffer, you can’t par your way around a course, blah, blah, blah.
But it sounded genuine when he said he’s not in a rush (a big change coming from a guy who turned pro after one year in college because he couldn't wait to get on Tour), and that he was enjoying the learning process. It’s hard to forget that he’s just 24 years old. There are only six players – Jason Day, Derek Fathauer, Anthony Kim, Colt Knost, Webb Simpson, and Brendon Todd – younger than Wittenberg with a Tour card.
A string of missed cuts can pack an emotional punch but Wittenberg remained optimistic. Especially this thought that proved prophetic: “You’re never as far off as you think you are,” he said.