Sports

2018 Zach Johnson Foundation Classic features rising PGA stars

Ogden column: Keep an eye on Trey Mullinax, Wesley Bryan, Ryan Moore and many others

Ryan Moore, on the 15th green during the third round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier golf tournament at The Old White TPC in Sulphur Springs, W.Va., will play in Monday's Zach Johnson Foundation Classic golf event, (USA Today Sports)
Ryan Moore, on the 15th green during the third round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier golf tournament at The Old White TPC in Sulphur Springs, W.Va., will play in Monday's Zach Johnson Foundation Classic golf event, (USA Today Sports)

Unless you’re a rabid PGA Tour follower, Trey Mullinax likely isn’t a household name.

That’s nothing against Mullinax, who will play in the eighth annual Zach Johnson Foundation Classic on Monday at Elmcrest Country Club.

He’s a fantastic golfer who ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in driving distance (318 yards).

But he also ranks 171st in the Official World Golf Rankings. He’s still looking for his first PGA Tour win, although he did capture the 2016 Rex Hospital Open on the Web.com Tour.

Mullinax represents the PGA Tour “masses,” the guys who play week in and week out, searching for that first Tour victory or, if they are really lucky, that first major.

Zach Johnson — and just about every golfer on the PGA Tour not named Tiger Woods — was like that once. They work on their craft every day, tweaking the game just a bit to make that jump. They play in regional events to earn a few bucks, tournaments like the Waterloo Open (July 19-22) or the Greater Cedar Rapids Open (July 24-28), which is paying $30,000 to the winner this summer.

If they catch a break, they play on the Web.com Tour.

Mullinax won’t get as much attention Monday as Johnson or John Daly. Others in the field — like Bill Haas, Kyle Stanley and Jason Dufner — are recognizable names for those who pay attention to top-level pro golf.

But for every Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth — ranked first and sixth in the world, respectively — there are 10 Trey Mullinaxes. Others in Monday’s field — and not included in our “players to watch” feature — are Wesley Bryan, Jonathan Byrd, Chesson Hadley, Matt Jones, Keith Mitchell, Ryan Moore, Michael Kim and Patrick Rodgers.

Hadley ranks 59th in the world, Jones 288th. Hadley, who turned pro in 2010 and joined the PGA Tour in 2014, has one Tour victory and averages 69.986 strokes per round. Jones turned pro in 2001, joined the Tour in 2008, has one career victory and averages 71.204 strokes per round.

A slim margin for such a big gap.

But that’s the world of professional golf.

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Moore was four shots out of the lead heading into the final round of the Military Tribute at The Greenbier event on Sunday. He finished in a tie for 13th. Bryan finished in a tie for 26th, Mullinax a tie for 56th.

Mullinax, 26, turned pro in 2014 and joined the Tour last year. He’s an interesting fella, but not unlike many other stars-in-waiting. He was on the 2013 and ’14 NCAA Championship golf teams at the University of Alabama. He’s from Birmingham.

In his PGA Tour bio, it notes his favorite golf memory is “having to hit three tee shots on the first hole of the NCAA Championship his freshman year.”

He marks his ball with a quarter.

Moore, 35, has five PGA victories, including the 2016 John Deere Classic, and learned the game of golf “as soon as I could walk.” He and some friends and family formed a golf management “club” that owns and operates three golf courses in Puget Sound, Wash.

Bryan, 28, is “obsessed with Justin Bieber and frequently listens to his music when warming up.”

If Mullinax wasn’t playing golf, he’d be “turning wrenches at my dad’s shop.”

But he’s golfing and making a good living. He’d earned $1,119,675 before the conclusion of Sunday’s event. He finished tied for ninth at last year’s U.S. Open and was second this year at the Valero Texas Open.

The guy can play golf, just like Moore, just like Bryan, just like Hadley, Jones, Mitchell, Kim and many, many more.

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There’s a fine line between good and great on the PGA Tour. On Monday, maybe you can catch a rising star.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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