By DOUG FERGUSON
2014-03-12 03:22 AM
The road to the Masters is just getting started, and already two players have combined to win five times on the U.S. PGA Tour.
They're not Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
How many would have guessed Jimmy Walker (three wins) and Patrick Reed (two wins) when the season began in October?
Reed might have had his hand up.
In a moment of bravado on television after he won the Cadillac Championship, the 23-year-old Reed said, "I'm one of the top five players in the world. I feel like I've proven myself." He has won twice this season, three times dating to August.
Reed and Walker are the latest newcomers to winning on the strongest tour in golf. Harris English won in Mexico last November for his second tour title in six months. Jordan Spieth won in July, and he started this year by giving himself three chances to win.
It's just another example that winning is getting hard, even for those who are used to winning a lot.
Each season seems to bring a new crop of younger players who have a lot of game and no fear. Russell Henley won the Sony Open in his debut as a tour member. Just over a year later, he overcame a two-shot lead playing with Rory McIlroy in the final group at the Honda Classic and won a four-hole playoff.
Scott Stallings won at Torrey Pines for his third tour win. He's 28.
The last three winners of the World Golf Championships -- Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Reed -- are all in their 20s. Ten of the 17 winners this season are in their 20s. That includes Chesson Hadley, who won the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday about the time Reed was beating the strongest field so far this year at Doral.
"Look at Russell Henley -- he's won twice," Reed said. "Harris English has won twice, Jordan Spieth won once. Myself, I've won three times. It's just one of those things that we've worked very hard -- all of us -- to get where we are. And it's definitely shown what we are doing is working. To see the young guys coming out and playing and putting it to the veterans is always nice."
Walker turned 35 in January, so it's hard to consider him one of the younger players. Then again, injuries slowed the start of his career. And once he finally won at the Frys.com Open to kick off the new wraparound season, he has made it a habit. Over the weekend, Walker talked about new opportunities that have come his way following his three wins. He's not interested in anything but playing good golf.
Now that he has tasted winning, his appetite is only growing.
Walker leads the Ryder Cup standings. Johnson is No. 2, while Reed is at No. 4 in the Ryder Cup. Five of the top nine players in the Ryder Cup standings were not on the last U.S. team at Muirfield Village for the Presidents Cup.
It's still only March, and the majors have yet to be played. Reed has never even played in a major.
He rubbed a few people the wrong way when he declared himself among the top five in the world (he's actually No. 20). It showed what he thought about his game and that he's not afraid to say it.
Years ago, Colin Montgomerie jokingly said it was hard to win majors because Woods usually won two of them, Mickelson, Vijay Singh or Ernie Els won another, and that left only one for everybody else each year.
Twenty-one players have won the last 24 majors. That would seem to make it even harder.
It's getting that way for regular U.S. PGA Tour events, too.