Cameron Champ wows the crowd at Phoenix Open

Tom Tingle/USA TODAY Network

Cameron Champ wows the crowd at Phoenix Open

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Cameron Champ wows the crowd at Phoenix Open

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by Greg Moore, USA TODAY Network

Cam Champ might be the next big star on the PGA Tour, but you couldn’t tell by how he played Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

All week long, the 23-year-old heavy hitter generated the kind of hype he’s becoming known for.

He went long, ranking second in driving distance by averaging more than 300 yards off the tee. He had two of the five longest drives of the tournament, including a 375-yard blast on No. 18 in the second round.

He kept it loose, wearing one black shoe and one white shoe, saying it was his way of recognizing his bi-racial heritage for Black History Month.

Cameron Champ sports one black and one white shoe during the second round of the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

And he got talked up all week by tournament champion Rickie Fowler.

“We enjoy talking a little bit about the golf course and what was going on out there, hearing how far Cameron Champ was hitting it,” he said of off-the-course conversations with Justin Thomas.

Fowler also raved about Champ’s power.

“I can’t go on Cameron Champ’s line,” Fowler said, discussing his strategy on 18.

The remarks were unprompted and came on separate days. Not bad for a guy who finished near the bottom of the board over the weekend.

‘Obviously, a great start’

Thomas discussed Champ’s potential, as well.

“He’s a good player,” Thomas said. “… He’s quiet. He kind of goes about his business.”

Thomas is just two years older than Champ. But he’s been a pro for four years longer. He went on to how much he’s been able to grow his game in that span, suggesting that Champ could experience similar development.

“He’s someone, I think, once he kind of tidies everything up – and he’s still so young. I remember when I was at his age, you learn a lot or I was able to learn a lot, and I’m a lot more mature and a lot more well rounded player now then. I was then. He’s off to obviously a great start in his career.”

Thomas is right.

He leads the PGA Tour in driving distance with a 320-yard average. He’s got three top-10 finishes, tying him for second on tour, and one win. And he’s 10th in FedEx Cup standings even after his disappointing finish in the People’s Open.

No one gets more “oohs” and “ahhhs” from the gallery on tee shots. His swing just sounds different, which makes sense given that he has the fastest average club head speed by about 5 miles per hour.

All this for a guy who’s only been a pro for about 15 months.

Pump the brakes

Still, let’s not anoint him just yet. He struggled mightily in the rain Sunday and finished the tournament tied for 67th.

So, like Thomas said, he’s got plenty to figure out.

Still, there’s no denying his electricity. He uncorked a drive on Hole 3 that went 331 yards in the air, right into a bunker. Had that shot been 3 feet longer, it would have cleared a small hill on the edge of the trap and rolled another 20 yards, easily.

He then tried to go bunker to green on the 574-yard par 5, but couldn’t quite get there. He hit a wedge out of the desert and rolled it to within 5 feet of the pin, setting up a birdie putt.

Sometimes, it seems like he doesn’t know his own strength.

The next hole, the 189-yard par-3, he shot it over the pin by a good 65 feet. His approach shot ended up in the rough, and he had to settle for a bogey.

He closed the final round with a 4-over par 75, disappointing for a player Golfweek branded as “one to watch” before the tournament.

But he’s got Rickie Fowler, the most popular player on tour and the 2019 Phoenix Open champion, looking for him in the rearview.

And he has this whole “hype” thing on cruise control.

Could be we just got a glimpse of the sport’s next big star.

And the next time he’s here, he’ll have something to prove. Gwk

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