SBJ/June 12 - 18, 2006/SBJ In Depth

On par to score with sponsors

Here are some of the hottest young players on the PGA and LPGA tours who have caught the eyes of sponsors or are poised to do so with some strong performances.

HENRIK BJORNSTAD
Age: 27
Country: Norway
Key sponsors: Taylor Made, Oakley, Titleist
Years on tour: Rookie
Best PGA Tour finish: 10th
Why to watch: The first Norwegian to earn a PGA Tour card, Bjornstad had a four-tournament stretch on the European circuit in which he broke 75 only once. Frustrated, he quit the game for nearly a year and worked as a carpenter before picking up his clubs again in February 2005. He passed PGA Tour Q-school and has already earned nearly $400,000 this season.
PAULA CREAMER
Age: 19
Country: United States
Key sponsors: ADT, Adidas, Royal Bank of Scotland
Years on tour: 2
Best LPGA Tour finish: 2 wins
Why to watch: She’s a gritty competitor with a penchant for pink. As a rookie, she had the guts to call out Annika Sorenstam over a possible rules violation and the nerves to beat veteran Laura Davies in their Solheim Cup singles match.
NATALIE GULBIS
Age: 23
Country: United States
Key sponsors: Met-Rx, Outback, Adidas
Years on tour: Five
Best LPGA Tour finish: 3rd
Why to watch: Gulbis is a good ballstriker who regularly finds the green and is almost always in the money. And she does both while looking like something out of Cosmo or Glamour.
BILL HAAS
Age: 24
Country: United States
Key sponsors: Titleist/Footjoy, Lacoste, Canon
Years on tour: Rookie
Best PGA Tour finish: 4th
Why to watch: As the son of PGA Tour veteran Jay Haas, he has the genes and talent to stick around for a long time. Also, he has an easygoing personality that translates well with fans.
J.B. HOLMES
Age: 24
Country: United States
Key sponsors: Cobra, Yum! Brands
Years on tour: Rookie
Best PGA Tour finish:1 win
Why to watch: Holmes is a grip-it-and-rip-it throwback to a young John Daly — just longer. He can overpower courses when he’s on his game and he has an “average guy” appeal that draws fans to him.
LORENA OCHOA
Age: 24
Country: Mexico
Key sponsors: AeroMexico, Lacoste, Rolex
Years on tour: 4
Best LPGA Tour finish: 5 wins
Why to watch: She has had a reputation for not being a closer, but two first-half wins make her a front-runner for player of the year. She’s perhaps the most recognizable athlete in Mexico, and her popularity is growing in the United States even as the LPGA’s talent pool continues to rise.
MORGAN PRESSEL
Age: 27
Country: Norway
Key sponsors: Taylor Made, Oakley, Titleist
Years on tour: Rookie
Best PGA Tour finish: 10th
Why to watch: The first Norwegian to earn a PGA Tour card, Bjornstad had a four-tournament stretch on the European circuit in which he broke 75 only once. Frustrated, he quit the game for nearly a year and worked as a carpenter before picking up his clubs again in February 2005. He passed PGA Tour Q-school and has already earned nearly $400,000 this season.
CAMILO VILLEGAS
Age: 24
Country: Colombia
Key sponsors: Cobra, J. Lindeberg, Titleist / FootJoy
Years on tour: Rookie
Best PGA Tour finish: 2nd
Why to watch: He’s a big hitter with flashy clothes and a flashy style. Villegas is a fitness buff who could stroll down a catwalk as easily as he could a fairway.
MICHELLE WIE
Age: 16
Country: United States
Key sponsors: Nike, Sony, Omega
Years on tour: No full exempt status on any pro tour
Best LPGA Tour finish: 2nd
Best PGA Tour finish: Has yet to make a cut
Why to watch: Long and strong, Wie isn’t afraid to take on the world’s best men or women — and she hasn’t been driving a car for even a full year. She could transcend golf and sports if she starts winning soon, especially in men’s events.
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