News & Opinion

Is Cameron Champ a star in making? Or a phantom of fall?

Cameron Champ
PGA Tour player Cameron Champ

Hawkins and Rude concur that 2nd-year PGA Tour player, despite 2 victories, remains a work in progress

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.

Cameron Champ picked up his second PGA Tour victory last week, both of which have come against lesser autumn fields. Is this guy a star in the making or the Sultan of the Fall Series?

John Hawkins Headshot
John Hawkins

Hawk’s take: Two wins at age 24 is impressive, regardless of what part of the year they occurred, but it’s a 21-tournament stretch between those victories – heart of the season, premier competition – that has me wondering. Champ missed 11 cuts and withdrew from the Players Championship after a first-round 78. He didn’t manage a single top-10 finish from January through August, so there’s a giant disparity between how he performs against the upper echelon as opposed to largely unproven tour pros.

You see a guy who led the Tour in driving distance last season. I see a guy who finished 175th in driving accuracy and posted five rounds in the 60s from May through August. Champ hits a lot of greens for a player who drives it so crooked, which isn’t unusual, but his short game across the board is abominable. When you finish the year 185th in overall scrambling, 188th in sand-save percentage and 188th in strokes gained around the green, it takes a ton of improvement to even sniff the top tier.

We’re talking about a raw talent with a high ceiling, given his prodigious length, but there are lots of young hotshots who drive the ball well over 300 yards nowadays. Until he tightens up his flaws, Champ is a work in progress whose best results will continue to come in the fall.

Jeff Rude Headshot
Jeff Rude

Rude’s take: Feasting on autumn tournaments? Yes, considering victories this fall and last in his first two seasons. Star in making? Maybe, because of his power.

As we’ve said, we’re paid mainly to analyze the present, not forecast the future. Crystal balls and guarantees don’t exist in golf. Predicting is risky business.

I mean, Tiger Woods went almost 11 years stuck on 14 majors. Greg Norman won only two majors. Jordan Spieth has stalled as a winner. Eddie Pearce didn’t make it, but Mark O’Meara made the Hall of Fame because of what he did at 41. Mark Wilson has won as many Tour events as Tom Lehman. Bruce Lietzke won five more Tour titles than his brother-in-law Jerry Pate, who was on a Hall of Fame track until injury. The odd list goes on.

Champ could be a star because he’s the longest hitter in pro golf and, at 24, is still learning to play under the guidance of Sean Foley. When someone flies the ball 350 yards and carries his 4-iron 240 yards and his 8-iron 180, he has a chance. But he also went through a top-20 drought this year, one driven by a substandard short game and littered with missed cuts and injury. So, really, who knows?