GW Monday: 'New guard' has plenty to prove

March 28, 2011

From the March 28 issue of Golf World Monday:

For all the eagerness to decree a changing of the guard in pro golf, it's not something that can be rushed or manufactured. As the Arnold Palmer Invitational painfully showed, a fair sampling of the prospective successors still have a lot to prove as closers.

Obviously Bay Hill played tough, but the Sunday retreat by several ballyhooed bucks who were in contention was sobering. Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson shot slapdash 78s and Spencer Levin had a nervous 76.

More telling was the play of those still around at crunch time. Steve Marino (pictured) had the most conspicuous collapse, giving the tournament away with a bogey on 15, a soft par on 16, and a stabbed five-footer (and a double bogey) on 17. Justin Rose was brilliant on the back nine until he faced a must-have seven-footer for par on the 71st, and Marc Leishman missed a 15-footer on the last as both fell to T-3. Eventual winner Martin Laird was as shaky as anyone, playing the first 11 holes five over par. The Scot rallied late to be the last man standing, but his 75 shouldn't have been enough.

There's no doubt the members of the would-be new order have flashy tools. But real stars are validated only when those tools consistently hold up in the heat. Anything decreed before that happens is hot air.

-- Jaime Diaz