Can the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year race be decided on the Rocket Mortgage Classic?
Two of the award’s leaders, Sahit Tigala and Cameron Young, are at the top of the Detroit leaderboard after 36 holes, with Young holding the club’s lead with 10 fewer, one stroke ahead of Tigala.
Both are winless this season, but they have shown bursts of brilliance. Tigala, winner of the 2020 Haskins and Nicklaus Award, has been criticized several times. He led the Sanderson Farms Championship with 54 holes but finished T-8. On Sunday, he was tied for a 16-hole lead at the WM Phoenix Open, but the Californian teed off the number 17 into the water and he completed a T-3, one shot from the playoffs. And at the Travelers Championship, he led on his 72nd hole, but hit his bunker shot for an A-2.
However, Young is considered the current leader. The New Yorker has six top 5s to Tigala’s three, placing him 13th in the FedExCup standings, 25 spots higher than Tigala. But events in which the 25-year-old Young came close to winning make his rookie campaign all the more impressive.
A top 3 at Sanderson Farms, RBC Heritage and the Wells Fargo Championship is no laughing matter, but Young’s year was marked by a second-place finish at the Genesis Invitational, a T-3 at the PGA Championship and another second-place finish at the Open.
Full results from Rocket Mortgage Classic
“(Young) is having one of the best rookie seasons I can think of,” Adam Scott said after Friday’s round. “He hasn’t won a tournament yet, but it’s clear that he’s very confident and is a great young player.”
As both knock on the door for a breakout win, Tigala points out that if the season ended today, Young would edge him out of the contenders for the award.
“(Rookie of the Year) is not really the goal that I had or even now that I’m close to it, I feel like I need to get it or something,” Tigala said. “It’s just guys like Davis [Riley]Mito [Pereira]. I mean, Cam Young, in my opinion, is now the leader and deserves more. If I have a great couple of weeks here and in the playoffs, then maybe that will change, but like I said, I think Cam is 9 or 10 short today. Yes, he is such a talent and I think he deserves it.”
However, the respect is mutual.
“(Winning Rookie of the Year) will be special,” Young said. “I know it’s named after Arnold Palmer, who also went to Wake Forest and someone who was instrumental in creating the PGA Tour and the game of golf. It would be a great honor. I know my teammate Will. [Zalatoris] won last year, so I would like to follow in his footsteps there.
“I’m sure Sahit is just being humble. I think he has as good a chance as I do and I think it comes down to who is the best in the playoffs. I mean he had a lot of chances to win. He had more leads, late I think, than I did. I was chasing much more. happen in the next few weeks.”
If one of the two young players is able to take equipment home from Detroit this week, it could be the deciding factor as to who shelved another trophy later this year. Even if Tigala wins at Motor City, Young may still have the Rookie of the Year advantage. But, no doubt, it will make the already close race even more intense.