After Ryder Cup snub, Cameron Young vanished. He returned with a perfect response
The last time we saw Cameron Young at a golf course, he was being hard on himself.
Young was in the midst of a T15 finish at the BMW Championship, the second FedEx Cup playoff event. He was No. 17 in the world. He’d missed just three cuts in 13 months. He’d logged three top-eight finishes in his five major starts since then. But when Young was asked to grade his season, his mind went negative.
“I wanted to say, like, C-,” he said, acknowledging his negative first instinct. “But I think it’s better than that. I think kind of like a B. I think I’ve played some mediocre golf, but I think I’ve also done some things really well.”
That was a fairly dour assessment, but spoke to Young’s sky-high expectations for his own game. Following a Rookie-of-the-Year campaign in which he’d logged a handful of podium finishes, Young had expected to leap forward but stalled out instead. He had still played well, just not as well as he expected.
At that point we thought we might see Young in a couple weeks when the U.S. Ryder Cup team was announced. The 12-man U.S. team is comprised of six automatic qualifiers and six captain’s picks. Young hadn’t qualified automatically, but he had finished ninth in the standings, which is typically safe terrain.
But when the team was announced following the Tour Championship, captain Zach Johnson went with No. 7 (Brooks Koepka), No. 8 (Jordan Spieth), No. 10 (Collin Morikawa), No. 12 (Sam Burns), No. 13 (Rickie Fowler) and No. 15 (Justin Thomas). There’s plenty of nuance that went into those selections, but the result for players is quite binary: you’re in or you’re out. Young was out.
We didn’t hear from him in the week that followed, which was hardly a surprise: Young has no social media presence and no demonstrated love for media, period. We didn’t hear from him Ryder Cup week, when the U.S. got beaten soundly in Italy. For a guy who prefers to let his clubs do the talking, it was fitting that we didn’t hear from Young until he’d played his next competitive round of golf, which came this week in Mexico. It was a good round, too. Young opened his World Wide Technology Championship with a Thursday seven-under 65 in which he hit 14 of 14 fairways and 18 of 18 greens, jumping instantly into contention.
After the round, he gave a couple short interviews. So — where’d he been?
When he spoke to Golf Channel’s George Savaricas, Young was still wearing the glow of a terrific round of golf. And as it turns out, that wasn’t all he was happy about.
“I hadn’t had time off like that in a long time, so it was really nice,” Young said. “I spent some time at home with my family and I was able to practice at home consistently, which was really nice. I feel like so often it’s one week, you’re just home in between events.
“And to be able to work on things a little bit more extensively — I think it’s helping me. I feel like I’ve come out very comfortable with what I’m doing. Just looking forward to the week, just to get back into competition and I’m excited for the next few days.”
Savaricas followed with a reference to Keegan Bradley, who’d finished No. 11 in the Ryder Cup standings but, like Young, hadn’t been selected. Bradley had been more public with his emotions post-selection. He thought he’d played well enough to earn a selection. He’d worked on his relationships with fellow U.S. Ryder Cuppers to mesh well as a pick. He was devastated to be left off. He’d be pulling hard for the U.S. team. Still, he felt somewhat betrayed by the selection process. The implication was clear: Maybe if he’d been better friends with a couple guys on the team, he would have made it. “I feel like moving forward I’m going to have to automatically qualify,” Bradley said at the time. The slight, he added, will fuel him.
And if there’s anyone who knows how all of that feels, it’s Young.
I think he’s looking at it the right way,” Young told Savaricas about Bradley, choosing his words carefully. “Obviously both of us wanted to make that team and it’s unfortunate, in each of our eyes, that we didn’t.
“But I think I walk away from it thinking, maybe I feel like I should have made the team but it wasn’t up to me. And two years from now, if I put myself in a position where they don’t have a choice, that’d be the better way to do it.”
It was the perfect response. He teased at the idea that he should have been on the team but made no complaints. He kept things matter-of-fact. And he put the onus on himself going forward, showing a certain steeliness — where they don’t have a choice — emphasizing his intentions. And while nobody’s arguing that the WWT Championship is the fifth major, the fact that Young’s remarks came after he’d just shot 65 gave them more gravity.
Young answered more questions from reporters in the minutes that followed. He described his golf at home as “honestly, kind of fun” which sounded like even he was surprised. He said he felt like his patience was recharged, too.
Young hasn’t won a PGA Tour event despite more than a handful of close calls, but he knows he has the game to win the next one. He could win this one.
The final query was about his Wednesday pro-am round, where Young had been paired up, to his great surprise, with Justin Timberlake.
“I actually had no idea I was playing with him,” Young said. “I saw his name on the scorecard and I thought that must be kind of someone else named Justin Timberlake — but it was not.”
Young said he had a blast playing with Timberlake.
“He said he’s been down near scratch at times and you can definitely see where that comes from. He hits it pretty hard. Yeah, he was really, really a pleasure to play with and we had a good time.”
That makes sense. What better match for Young than a superstar flying under the radar?