Hak, Hossler, Jutanugarns highlight Rolex field
The 2011 Rolex Tournament of Champions kicks off this week (June 28-July 1) at the Crosswater Course at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort. Golfweek takes a quick look at the field:
For Round 1 pairings, click here.
Big Names: Sixth-ranked Shun Yat Hak will highlight the highest ranked player in the field, with the top five players in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings not competing. Though his name may not be as familiar as Spieth or Paolucci, Hak, a native of Hong Kong, has performed well on some of junior golf’s biggest stages. He grabbed his third career AJGA victory in April at the Taylormade-Adidas Golf Junior at Innisbrook (70-76-68), and took fourth place in the HP Boys Championship in February. Hak contended at last year’s Rolex Tournament of Champions, but a third-round 80 derailed his chances and he finished tied for fourth place.
Beau Hossler will be competing in his first Rolex TOC, but he is no stranger to the spotlight. Hossler garnered recent notoriety for his role as the youngest player in the 2011 U.S. Open, and he will try to build off of that experience this week. The 16-year old from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., tied for fifth at the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic in April (71-66-75), and has proven his game can stand up to pressure, edging out notable PGA Tour pros such as Charlie Wi and Daniel Chopra for his spot in last week’s U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.
Perhaps no player enters the Rolex Tournament of Champions with more confidence than Billy Kennerly, who is coming off of a dominant performance at the FootJoy Invitational last week. Kennerly’s record-tying 11-under total was highlighted by an opening round 63, as the 18-year-old went wire-to-wire for his first AJGA victory. Kennerly’s win also earned him an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship in August. He is currently ranked 11th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, and has committed to play for Clemson University in the fall.
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Keep an eye on: Sixteen-year old Jake Knapp of Costa Mesa, Calif., is ranked No. 66 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, and has been quietly playing well in 2011. Knapp made it through U.S. Open Local Qualifying earlier this month and shared fifth at the Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic with Hossler, shooting 67-72-73. Joshua Martin, 14, of Pinehurst, N.C. is another relative unknown, despite being ranked 65th. In April he finished third at the AJGA Exide Technologies Junior Open (70-75), and tied for 13th at the FJ invitational last week (70-70-70-72). Although he is one of the youngest players in the field, his consistency could keep him around the top of the leaderboard.
– Matt Bernstein
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Big names: The Jutanugarn sisters from Bangkok will be among the top contenders teeing it up in Oregon. Moriya, ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, won the AJGA Winn Grips Heather Farr Classic earlier this year and finished fifth at the Rolex Girl’s Junior Championship. Her sister Ariya, ranked No. 2, is fresh off her win at the Rolex Girl’s Junior, where she shot 17-under-par.
Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz., ranked No. 4, could also be in the hunt after recently finishing T-8 in the Rolex Girls’ Junior with a 69-69-71-75.
Karen Chung, of Livingston N.J., enters the event after grabbing her first AJGA invitational win earlier this summer at the Thunderbird International Junior. Chung is ranked No. 11 by Golfweek.
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Keep an eye on: Jordan Lippetz (No. 76) of Bradenton, Fla., is still looking for an AJGA win this year. She came in second place at the AJGA Signsational Signs Junior at the Woodlands.
Casey Danielson of Osceola, Wis., placed sixth at the Annika Invitational earlier this year and tied for tenth at the Rolex Girl’s Junior, proving she can shoot low numbers.
Lauren Diaz-Yi of Thousand Oaks, Calif., has 3 top 20 finishes in the AJGA this year. Last week she shot 77-71-71-72 at the Rolex Girl’s Junior earning her seventeenth place, respectively.
– Christina Thomas