Notes: Langley's path; MacKenzie's return; more

Scott Langley during his top-three finish at the PGA Tour's 2014 Valspar Championship near Tampa, Fla.
Scott Langley during his top-three finish at the PGA Tour's 2014 Valspar Championship near Tampa, Fla. ( Associated Press )

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

They were making their debuts as card-carrying members of the PGA Tour at the 2013 Sony Open, but it was Russell Henley who made the bucket of birdies to claim victory, with Scott Langley settling for a share of third.

Henley used that as a springboard to a productive rookie season, finishing 44th in FedEx Cup points and earning more than $2 million, and he recently chalked up his second PGA Tour victory, at the Honda Classic.

Langley melted into the landscape for the rest of 2013, though at 122nd in the FEC standings he maintained his playing status for 2013-14. When he was one of two players to shoot par or better all four rounds at the Valspar Championship (David Hearn being the other), the former NCAA champion from Illinois finished third, his first top 10 since that Sony stop.

In the 37 tournaments in between, the left-hander had missed the cut in 20 starts, so clearly he is hoping this is a signal that things are headed on the upswing.

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BACK, BETTER THAN EVER: Back with full status on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2010, 39-year-old Will MacKenzie looks like a guy determined to stay for a while. His play thus far in 2013-14 has been consistently superb.

MacKenzie’s most recent effort included a closing spurt at Innisbrook that nearly put him in position to win Sunday, but in the end, he settled for a share of fourth. It was his fourth top-10 in 11 starts; if you widen the focus to top 15, MacKenzie has been there eight times already.

Pretty solid stuff, especially considering the financial rewards. With $1,218,174 already, MacKenzie has surpassed his previous best of $1,116,507, in 2007.

Numbers tell the story when it comes to MacKenzie’s productive return to the PGA Tour. In 40 rounds, he has been in the 60s 23 times already; only Harris English and Charles Howell III (26 each) and Matt Every (24) have more. MacKenzie in nine Sunday rounds has yet to shoot higher than 70, and his average of 68.56 is surpassed by only Kevin Na (67.86) and Webb Simpson (68.00) of those who have played at least five final rounds. Overall, MacKenzie’s scoring average is 69.523, sixth best on Tour this season.

• Read all of senior writer Jim McCabe's weekly pro golf notes here.

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HE’S GOT STAYING POWER: John Senden’s victory last week at Innisbrook was just his second in 345 PGA Tour tournaments, dating to his debut at the 2002 Sony Open.

To consider how the PGA Tour is constantly changing complexion with the emergence of young talent and international quality, re-visit Senden’s first victory, the 2006 John Deere Classic. Of the 31 names following Senden’s at the conclusion of play, only six have full status on Tour: Jeff Overton, Bill Haas, Bubba Watson, Jason Bohn, Ryan Moore and Ryan Palmer.

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BUT SO DO THEY: Same thought process, different method. When you compare today’s top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking to the one in mid-March 10 years ago, only two names appear on both: Woods and Mickelson.

Woods also was No. 1 at this time in 2004, while Mickelson sat No. 8, as opposed to being fifth now.

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OVER 40 A RARITY: Senden, 42, became the oldest winner since Woody Austin, 49, won the Sanderson Farms Championship and Phil Mickelson, 43, the Open Championship on the same weekend last July.

In between, there had been 25 tournaments played and the winner was in his 20s 11 times, 30-34 six times, 35-37 eight times.

Since the start of 2012, only six players in their 40s have won: Mickelson three times, Austin, Senden, Ernie Els, Ken Duke and Brian Gay.

• • •

LAGGING BEHIND: Give yourself a gold star if you predicted that Woods would be sitting five spots behind Chesson Hadley in the Ryder Cup standings entering this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Hadley is 35th, Woods 40th.

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RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Rumors of his retirement have been greatly exaggerated, because Ricci Roberts – Ernie Els’ longtime caddie – worked both recent WGC events, the Accenture Match Play Championship and the Cadillac Championship, for Richard Sterne.

Having been forced to the sidelines when he had a serious leg injury, Roberts had at one point decided to take a job in Els’ wine business. When Roberts showed up at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., for the Match Play, it caused a reporter to do a double-take. When asked why he was back, Roberts smiled. “Because I was bored,” he said.

When Roberts opted to get back beneath the strap, one of his first assignments was with a rising amateur star whom he raves about, Dominic Foos. The 16-year-old is Germany’s top amateur and a runner-up at the Junior Orange Bowl tournament in Florida in December.

Foos has accepted a spot into the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley on April 24-26 in Graniteville, S.C. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.