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19th Hole

12 players to follow in 2022: (2) Akshay Bhatia

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Over the next 12 days, the two presenters on our new ‘Across The Pond’ podcast, Matt Vincenzi and Jason Daniels give their 12 players to follow for 2022 to coincide with the 12 days of Christmas. 

None so far have won on their respective tours, so here’s to a long-term watch and investment!

2. Akshay Bhatia (PGA Tour)

At just 17 years old, Akshay Bhatia decided to forego collegiate golf and turn professional in September 2019.

The North Carolina native won the 2019 Jones Cup and was the No. 1-ranked junior in the country and was the first high-schooler ever to become a member of the winning United States Walker Cup team in 2019. With seemingly endless talent and plenty of power, it made some sense to try his luck professionally.

Unfortunately for Bhatia, his journey in the past few years has not gone as smoothly as his beautiful golf swing. Although Bhatia has used sponsors exemptions to make eighteen PGA Tour starts thus far in his career, including a top ten finish at the Fortinet Championship; he failed to earn one of the 25 PGA Tour cards offered at the 2020 Korn Ferry Finals. He played his way into the event via non-member FedExCup points.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had quite an impact on the teenager who was trying to scrape and claw his way onto the PGA Tour. In March, Bhatia finished in the top 40 of qualifying for Canada’s Mackenzie Tour to earn conditional status, but the start of that circuit’s season was postponed due to the pandemic. He also was scheduled to play in the Hero Indian Open in March on a sponsor’s invite before the European Tour (now DP World Tour) canceled that tournament.

Despite the few setbacks, there were some highlights last year for the now 19-year-old. Akshay was able to qualify for the 2021 U.S. Open and made the cut, finishing tied for 57th at Torrey Pines. He also won three mini-tour events in 2020-2021, flashing the talent that made him such a highly regarded prospect.

Just this week, Bhatia won in a playoff on the Florida Elite Tour, winning $50,000.

Still a teenager, Bhatia has plenty of time to prove his talent. He has said in the past he is using his first few seasons as a professional as his “college”, and is taking all of the difficulties in stride as he develops as a golfer. His raw talent should allow for him to take a giant leap forward in 2022, and will surely have many accomplishments beyond this season.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Akshay Bhatia wins Korn Ferry event with caddie who ‘doesn’t know anything about golf’ – GolfWRX

  2. jake

    Dec 12, 2021 at 12:34 am

    he is a loser!!!
    not going to happen!
    putting sucks

    • Drkviol801

      Dec 12, 2021 at 7:33 am

      Lmaooo

    • N

      Dec 13, 2021 at 4:12 am

      Who let Donald Trump into the comments?

      That is some solid 28-handicap armchair analysis right there.

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19th Hole

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia’s personal relationship has reportedly turned toxic

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In 2014 Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were the so-called ‘dream team’ of the Ryder Cup.

The pair totted up a combined total of 5-and-a-half points of the 16-and-a-half won by the victorious European team, beating the pairing of Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan in the second day foursomes before both winning their singles.

Their relationship was so solid that McIlroy was honored to be an usher at Garcia’s wedding in 2017, but recently it’s all gone sour, with Golf Monthly reporting a “complete deterioration” of the relationship.

A week ago, it was widley reported that the Spaniard had told his Northern Irish friend that they were now “finally getting paid what we deserve,” a comment that received the reply, “Sergio. We’re golfers. We don’t deserve to be paid anything.”

According to Golf Monthly, the relationship has now “turned personal,” with the world number three unhappy that his old friend has dedicated himself to the Saudi-backed tour, putting the selection process for the Ryder Cup into confusion. The rhetoric between the two is reported to be “bitter and personal.”

At the Wells Fargo Championship in May, as he was hacking out of the rough after a ruling, Garcia was heard muttering, “I can’t wait to leave this tour,” before being confirmed as one of the initial participants of the LIV Golf Series.

Whilst it is unclear exactly what the sanctions are with regards to the Ryder Cup 2023, the way the PGA and DP Tours are moving, there is a distinct possibility that LIV players will be seriously affected – though Garcia has made clear that he wants to be a part of it.

At a press conference before the inaugural LIV event at the Centurion Club, Garcia stated, “I haven’t resigned from the European Tour because I would like to still be a member. I’m European, I love the European Tour. I played it for 23 years. Obviously we’re going to have to wait and see what the European Tour does. But I definitely would like to keep my membership and get my chance to make the Ryder Cup team because I love that event. But we’ll wait and see what happens over there.”

Whilst recent LIV press conferences on site have caused their own controversy, Garcia has prompted his own backlash.

After reportedly delivering an anti-DP World Tour rant at the BMW International in Germany last week, Golf Monthly reports that one tour player commented:

“They (LIV players) all think they are untouchable, and they all think the tours can’t do anything. I think they’re all about to realize they’re wrong. It is short sighted to think regulations can’t change and that there isn’t a lot of ill-feeling towards them. I think they’ve miscalculated quite dramatically.

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19th Hole

‘You like apples?’ – Greg Norman takes bullish shot at PGA Tour over LIV poll numbers

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CEO of LIV Golf and former superstar Greg Norman took a shot at the PGA Tour via social media on Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated “Morning Read” shared a Harris Poll that indicated younger U.S. golf fans are open to the LIV Golf series despite its controversial source of funding.

Norman commented on social media with a link to the poll while tagging the PGA Tour’s official accounts, saying, “@pgatour you like apples??”

The line is, of course, in reference to a scene in the 1997 classic film Good Will Hunting, and Norman then doubled down on his bullish aim at the tour with a gif of one of follow up lines from Matt Damon’s character:

The results of the Harris Poll were extremely interesting.

According to Sports Illustrated, “Younger Americans are more aware of, more interested in and more open to the LIV tour, according to our polling — and the split is sharp. So while 40% of those 45 years old and younger are familiar with LIV, as opposed to 35% of the overall population, that figure falls to 27% among those aged 55 and over. And while 55% of U.S. adults familiar with the league plan to watch an LIV event, that number rises to more than 7 in 10 (71%) among those aged 18-34.”

The source of the funding for LIV has generated vigorous debate in recent months. The poll results indicated that younger golf fans aren’t as concerned with the Saudi money as the older generation. Among those aware that LIV Golf is funded by foreign government investments, a majority (52%) of those 45 and younger have no issues the arrangement, while those aged 55 and older report far more often that they disapprove.

There were plenty of other interesting results from the polling.

  • Those aware of LIV Golf’s funding sources are nearly evenly split about it (35% oppose the relationship while 36% support it).
  • By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans say that professional sports funders’ identities have no bearing on whether or not they watch. “In much the same way that sports fans are able to keep rooting for their team even if individual players have personal issues, it seems that they are willing to suspend judgment about a league even if its sponsors have poor reputations. This leaves open the question, however, of how potent attempts at “sportswashing” could be: If consumers are able to separate sporting events from their sponsors, it could run the other way, with leagues not transferring their positive reputations back to their funders.”
  • Among golf fans aware of the PGA Tour’s suspensions, 45% support the decision.

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19th Hole

‘Bye Bye Cheat!’ – Tour pro blocked on Twitter by Patrick Reed after shovel jibe

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@PReedGolf – probably the cause of more ‘blocks’ on Twitter golf than any other is at it again.

As one of the more recent recruits to the LIV Golf Series, Reed has once again opened himself up to criticism, a factor of his career for many years.

On this occasion, Reed tweeted an offer for tickets to this week’s second LIV event in Portland, an offer that was re-tweeted by DP World Tour pro Mike Lorenzo-Vera with the comment, “Does this code works if I want to buy a shovel ???”

The comment refers to an incident at the 2019 Hero World Challenge when Reed was accused of brushing away sand from behind his ball in a bunker, and didn’t go down well with those that run the former Masters champion’s Twitter – they blocked him.

The move didn’t bother Lorenzo-Vera. He went straight back with, “Well… that was fast! Bye bye cheat!”

Support was there. Popular on-line commentator group ByTheMinute (Non LIV) Golf said, “Love this MLV but everyone else is blocked already,” but one respondent took the opportunity to cast doubt on the new PGA/DP Tour alliance by accusing, ” Have some self respect instead rather than praising a decision to iron out the fact the Euro Tour will be now on par with the Korn Ferry.” Ouch.

Most recently, a press conference held at Pumpkin Ridge saw Reed, Brooks Koepka and Pat Perez face a barrage of awkward questions from reporters, and the answers given certainly have received little approval. The irony, of course, being that Koepka was quite happy to accuse his fellow LIV player of cheating at that event in 2019.

The LIV Golf Invitational Portland starts tomorrow and Reed plays with Perez, Talor Gooch and Dustin Johnson as the ‘4 Aces GC’ team, whilst Koepka captains ‘Smash GC’, comprising his brother Chase and DP World Tour winners Richard Bland and Adrian Otaegui.

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