Francis put all the pieces together, shooting a dazzling 68 that could have
been considerably lower but for a number of good birdie chances that he failed
to convert on the slow greens and some bad luck on the 10th hole, where his
perfect approach bounced out of the cup and ran 20 feet away. In a display of
Tour-caliber ball striking, he hit 14 greens and 12 fairways, averaging 305.5
yards a drive. Unlike a lot of juniors, who robotically make the same swing
over and over, Francis is a creative shotmaker who can shape his driver both
ways, loves to hit stingers, and has an array of crafty shots around the
greens. Francis ultimately missed the cut by two strokes, but one of his
playing partners, Tour rookie Tom Johnson, came away impressed. His scouting
report: "Great game, great composure, great kid. Some of the shots he hit
out there, you can see he has a ton of talent. I was also really impressed with
his attitude. He was so courteous--almost too courteous. He kept asking about
our through lines and stuff like that, and finally I said, 'Forget us, just go
play.' " Francis's flashy game didn't go unnoticed at the largely starless
event. One prominent agent who tracked him last week came away practically
salivating: "Can you imagine when he gains another 30 pounds?
John francis is
6'2 1⁄2" and he says he did a lot of his growing in college. Philip will
doubtlessly fill out physically, but UCLA will be an important chance for him
to grow in other ways. Many an obsessed golfer has sacrificed his youth chasing
glory. It so happened that the first round of the Deere was on the same day of
the surprise announcement that 5' 1", 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa was turning
pro, which left John shaking his head. "I would be personally embarrassed
for my son to do that," he said. He adds that he "absolutely"
expects Philip to stay in college for four years.
For Philip, UCLA
is a mulligan on all the fun he gave up on by homeschooling, which he describes
as a lonely experience he now regrets. Says Bee, "He's looking forward to
going to college and experiencing some of the things he missed out on."
Many of them will
have golden tans. Francis is a typical teenage boy, riding a raging river of
hormones. Ask about his extended family in Sweden, and he says, "I love
visiting Sweden because the girls are absolutely gorgeous." When talk turns
to the special effects of Transformers, a movie he and Buran took in last week,
he says, "That was one reason I liked it." What was the other--the
brunette? "And the blonde."
In Los Angeles,
Francis can chase waves as well as girls. He has an admirable number of
hobbies, including surfing, which he takes so seriously that he has actually
attended a surf school to improve his form. One of Francis's beach buddies is
Jamie Lovemark, a longtime friend and rival from the junior circuit. Lovemark
won the 2007 NCAA individual title as a freshman at USC, and this summer he has
made a big splash competing with the pros, with outings that included a playoff
loss at a recent Nationwide tour event and three cuts made in three PGA Tour
events. Francis admits that his competitive jones has been stoked by Lovemark's
success. "Obviously," he says.
Francis will get
another chance to make some noise this week at the U.S. Bank Championship in
Milwaukee, where he's again playing on a sponsor's exemption. Given Francis's
promising performance at the Deere, expect him to play well in Milwaukee and
even to make the cut. To Francis, though, that's setting the bar way too low.
"I don't like telling people this, because I don't want to sound arrogant,
but my goal is to win," he says. You've got to love the kid--old enough to
know better, but talented enough to believe it.
British Open at GOLF.com