Matt Hill enters the PGA Tour jungle at the Memorial
It’s damn near impossible to break into the discussion of the best twentysomething golfers on the planet when you’ve got Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and a host of other names staring you in the face. But instead of waiting out the storm and hoping for a lull, 2009 NCAA individual champion Matt Hill has decided to jump head-first into the mix, making his professional debut at the Memorial.
While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and the fight for the World No. 1 ranking will ultimately be the headline story this week, Hill’s debut at Jack’s tournament should not be overlooked. The North Carolina State junior decided to forgo his senior year after missing out on the chance to defend his NCAA title (he didn’t even get out of the East regional).
Hill’s talent is unmatched on the collegiate level. He cleaned up last year during the awards portion of the season, walking away with, among others, the 2009 Jack Nicklaus Award (presented to the top collegiate golfer in all four divisions). He was also named the 2009 ACC Male Athlete of the Year, becoming the first golfer to do so. Simply put, Hill achieved all he could.
With IMG locked-in as his agent, Hill announced he was “finally ready for [the] lifestyle” of the PGA Tour. I’m not sure many could disagree with him after looking at his body work. But given how difficult the Tour landscape is this year, you have to wonder how long it’ll take Hill to break through the wall.
He’ll get a great test this week at Muirfield with a field that’s loaded with talent, that’s for sure. In my opinion, so long as he keeps the expectations at a minimum and gets used to the lifestyle, he should be fine. Just like baseball players making the jump from AAA to the big league, it’ll take time for Hill to find a groove.
Even still, I wouldn’t bet against him in the long-term. His game and his demeanor should give him an edge against some of the competition. He could’ve easily bolted last year after winning the individual title, but he decided to stick around for another year to refine his game. Very few would consider taking that road.