Sunday October 4th, 2015 3:35AM

The kids are definitely all right heading into Masters

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
AUGUSTA -- Jordan Spieth speaks with reverence when hanging out with the greats of the game at Augusta National.

It's always "Mr. Watson" this, "Mr. Crenshaw" that.

But, in his first trip to the Masters, Spieth feels he's got as good a chance as anyone to capture a green jacket.

That's the way it is with these kids today.

They're not very patient.

A new wave of 20-somethings is taking golf by storm, eager to make their mark and not at all beaten down by the aura of Tiger Woods, who hasn't won a major championship since 2008 and isn't even at Augusta this week as he recovers from the latest in a series of injuries.

Nine players under the age of 30 have won PGA Tour events since the official start of the season last fall, including a pair of victories by brash 23-year-old Patrick Reed.

That list doesn't even include perhaps the best of the youngsters: Rory McIlroy, already a two-time major champion at age 24, and Spieth, who last summer became the youngest Tour winner since the Depression before he even celebrated his 20th birthday.

"It helps me when I'm on the course when I can see younger and younger guys winning golf tournaments," Spieth said. "I believe that it doesn't take as much experience as maybe guys would have thought five years ago, six years ago."

Arnold Palmer is certainly impressed with a group that also includes Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Scott Stallings, Russell Henley and Chesson Hadley.

"I've been watching these young guys," Palmer said Tuesday, "and it's amazing how they hit the golf ball, how well they play. I've never ceased to be pleased and surprised to see the physical conditioning that these young people are coming with, to see their ability, to see how they play the game.

"I look at them and you think about a 23, 22, 25-year-old, and you see the shots they are hitting and how far they are hitting the golf ball, I'm startled, surprised and pleased."

Spieth credits players such as Woods and Phil Mickelson for inspiring this new generation - and not just in the United States. Look at someone such as Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who turned pro a year ago and, before the season was done, had tied for sixth at the British Open.

He's only 22, and getting ready for his first Masters as a paid player.

"Everybody in the field has a chance to win it," said Matsuyama, who was the low amateur at the 2011 Masters. "I feel like I'm one of those, too, that has a chance."

Spieth feels the same way, even though he's playing the Masters for the first time.

The last Augusta rookie to claim the green jacket was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. The only other ones to do it were the first two winners: Horton Smith in 1934 and Gene Sarazen in `35.

"It's getting younger," Spieth said, talking about the potential contenders. "The game is getting better, younger, and vastly spreading to different and more places. I think that we'll continue to see younger and younger players step up and be able to win early, such as we have."

Reed is as confident as anyone. He's won three times in seven months going back to last season, including a World Golf Championship, and declared on national television that he already feels like one of the top five players in the world.

For the record, the Masters will be his first major.

"It doesn't matter if you've played here once or if you've played here 50 times," Reed said. "When it comes down to it, it's just going to be one of those things that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy."

Of course, if he was a betting man, he'd be betting on himself.

"Experience always helps," Reed said, "but at the same time, with how many young guys are coming out and winning and all that kind of thing, I feel like ... whoever it playing the best - whether you have experience or don't - is going to pull off a victory."

Woods' troubles - personal issues, a body that's starting to break down, the longest drought of his career in the majors - has certainly contributed to that new swagger among the youngsters.

There were plenty of talented players who came along at the same time as Woods, but they knew their chances of winning the biggest tournament were pretty much nil when he was on his game.

Now, there's no such roadblock standing in the way.

These guys feel like they can win any tournament.

"It's changed now," Spieth said. "With the younger guys not being scared to win, I think that can only be better for the game."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 9 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 9 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 9 months ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 9 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 9 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 9 months ago )
Professional Sports
Watkinsville's Townley scores first Truck Series win at Las Vegas
John Wes Townley collected his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night, saving just enough fuel during his final run to win the Rhino Linings 350.
By Owen A. Kearns-Special to NASCAR Wire Service
2:20AM ( 1 hour ago )
Fittipaldi, Barbosa capture Prototype title at Petit Le Mans
Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa – with an assist by IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais – overcame treacherous weather conditions on Saturday at Road Atlanta, using a Prototype (P) class victory in the rain-shortened 18th edition of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda to clinch their second consecutive TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
By Nate Siebens
1:31AM ( 2 hours ago )
Watson leads No. 22 Clemson over Notre Dame
Former Gainesville High standout Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns, ran for a third, and Clemson's defense stopped DeShone Kizer on a tying two-point conversion as the 12th-ranked Tigers held on to beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 on Saturday night.
By The Associated Press
12:28AM ( 3 hours ago )
Tide rolls over Dogs in a rout
Jake Coker ran the offense to perfection, the defense turned in a dominating performance, and No. 13 Alabama even got a touchdown from its special teams Saturday in a 38-10 rout of No. 8 Georgia that re-established the Crimson Tide as a force in the national race.
By The Associated Press
11:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
Williams leads North Carolina rally past Georgia Tech
Quinshad Davis threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Marquise Williams, capping North Carolina's comeback from a three-touchdown deficit, and the Tar Heels beat Georgia Tech 38-31 on Saturday.
By The Associated Press
11:25PM ( 4 hours ago )