NSW Golf

Ruffels soars to Louisiana lead

Ryan Ruffels, Kyle Stanley
Aussie Ryan Ruffels (right) celebrates with Kyle Stanley in Louisiana today. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Australian teenager Ryan Ruffels and his teammate Kyle Stanley have soared to a share of the lead in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on the United States PGA Tour, giving the 18-year-old from Melbourne a chance at securing a playing card.

Ruffels and Stanley made eight birdies and two bogeys in an opening 66 at TPC Louisiana today to take the lead in the alternate-shot format, only to be tied at the top by Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer late in the day.

Playing on invitation, Ruffels is toying with big stakes -- and a shot at history.

Although the event has a different format -- foursomes on Thursday and Saturday and four-ball on Friday and Sunday -- the tour has chosen to offer up full rights, meaning that Ruffels would earn a playing card and a two-year exemption if he and Stanley held on to win.

While that is a way off, it is an alluring prospect for the Melburnian, who is now based in Florida.

He had seven sponsors' invitations last season on the main tour in a bid to earn his playing card that way, but missed out by the narrowest of margins, and recently has been playing on the PGA Latino Tour.

Stanley, who became friends with Ruffels after they were paired in the third round of the 2014 Australian Masters at Metropolitan, was thrilled with his young partner.

"We share the same management company, so I reached out to (managers) Bud and Brad and they kind of set us up (because) I thought it would be a good fit. He hits the ball really long, really well, good putter, so not a whole lot of weaknesses in his game," Stanley said.

And, as you'd expect, Ruffels, who has long-time Melbourne-based coach Denis McDade on hand for the week, was equally effusive in his praise of the American.

"I thought I hit it well until I saw Kyle start hitting the ball. That was pretty impressive," Ruffels said.

"He hit a lot down the pin. I've been putting very well lately, so he gave me a lot of opportunities, and I was able to roll some in, and I struck it quite well, as well.

"We just combined really well. He told me a couple days ago when we played on Tuesday, let's try and play boring golf, and for the most part that's what we did, we hit a lot of greens and we were able to roll a few in.

"It's just nice of him to take me under his wing a little bit and invite me to play with him."

Ruffels is a member of the Golf Australia rookie squad of young professionals and had a great amateur career, winning the world junior championship in 2014 and the Australian boys' amateur in 2015 as well as the Riversdale Cup.

A champion junior tennis player whose parents Ray and Anna Maria Fernandez are both tennis professionals, he was born in the US but moved to Australia with his family as a boy and turned his hand to golf.

His younger sister Gabriela is a member of the Victorian state golf team and also shows incredible talent.

Ruffels turns 19 over the weekend and would the youngest winner on the US Tour ever. The record, held by Harry Cooper at the 1923 Galveston Open, is 19 years and four days. Spieth was a couple of weeks shy of 20 when he won the John Deere Classic in 2013.

Another young Australian, Queensland Cameron Smith, is sitting tied-third in the tournament at five-under after a great start alongside Jonas Blixt of Sweden. Geoff Ogilvy, who carded three-under with his partner Ian Poulter, also is in the top 10.

Jason Day shot one-under with Rickie Fowler.


(Ruffels will turn 19 on April 29)




19 years, 4 days

Harry Cooper

1923 Galveston Open

19 years, 8 months, 3 days

Ralph Guldahl

1931 Santa Monica Open

19 years, 10 months, 14 days

Johnny McDermott

1911 U.S. Open

19 years, 11 months, 17 days

Jordan Spieth

2013 John Deere Classic

20 years, 5 days

Gene Sarazen

1922 Southern Open

20 years, 1 month, 15 days

Charles Evans, Jr. (amateur)

1910 Western Open

20 years, 2 months, 9 days

Ralph Guldahl

1932 Arizona Open

20 years, 4 months, 12 days

Francis Ouimet, (amateur)

1913 U.S. Open


19 January 2019
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