<
>

Rodgers, Schniederjans, Pan doing (high school) Class of 2011 proud

SAN DIEGO -- The Class of 2011 is already making a profound impact on golf's most elite level.

That's not the rookie class of 2011. Or the college Class of 2011. It's the high school Class of 2011 -- players less than a half-dozen years removed from prom and graduation and the homecoming dance.

Jordan Spieth has already ascended to No. 1 in the world and owns two major championships.

Justin Thomas is the reigning Hottest Player in the World, thanks to wins in three of his past five starts, including a two-tourney sweep of the Hawaii Swing.

Emiliano Grillo and Daniel Berger have also each won PGA Tour events and finished in the top 20 at majors.

Now the Class of 2011 might be on the verge of adding to its already lofty profile.

Entering the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, Patrick Rodgers is tied for the lead, while C.T. Pan is 1 stroke back, and Ollie Schniederjans is 2 off the pace.

"Playing with C.T. and then seeing Ollie's name up there today was fun," Rodgers said after a third-round 67 that left him in a share of the lead with defending champion Brandt Snedeker. "It felt like some college event or junior golf days. Just same stuff, different venue. So it should be fun to battle it out with them tomorrow."

Like most other people their age -- Rodgers is 24; Pan is 25; Schniederjans is 23 -- are still trying to find their way among the best in their chosen field.

Unlike most others, they're trying on a worldwide stage.

"I'm not sure too many of us had much doubt that we were going to be out here, and I think that's probably the reason why we're all having a decent amount of success and we're all here at an early age," explained Rodgers. "But it doesn't mean it's easy to get out here. It's really, really hard, really demanding; there's a lot of great players. But it's fun for me to have so many friends out here. That's what makes it really enjoyable."

The entire class of players hasn't just rooted for each other to succeed, they've inspired each other to reach new levels.

Just as Spieth's prosperity motivated Thomas, Thomas is now motivating the others, creating an ongoing cycle.

"I think we're all pretty motivated by the way Justin's playing," Rodgers admitted. "Take nothing away from him, he's playing incredible golf, probably the best in the world right now, but we've played against him our whole life. He's one of my best friends, and so it's motivating to see him play so well, so I think that's probably showing a little bit."

"Everyone's trying to play their best out there, and then watching Jordan Spieth killing it, it was great. And Justin Thomas, too," added Pan. "It's always an inspiration, for sure."

"What those guys have done is incredible," Schniederjans said. "Jordan and Justin, we're just trying to catch up. It's a long career, though. We're all going to do some special things. It's awesome to see what they've done, though. But I'm just trying to focus on myself."

Therein lies the tricky part for Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines.

Simply finishing as low-Class of 2011 player might not be enough to take home the overall title. Other than Rodgers, Pan and Schniederjans -- who have never won on the PGA Tour -- the other nine players in the final four groups off the tee all have PGA Tour titles to their name.

If there's an advantage for this trio, though, they understand that the guys they've grown up playing junior golf against have already thrived in similar scenarios.

"I think we all have the mindset that we want to come out and win right away," Rodgers said. "We all have the belief that we're a top player in the world, so especially when you win a ton in college and you have consistent success in amateur golf, I mean, pro golf's a different animal, but you kind of have the same expectations. ... I just had to be patient, and I think, who knows, it could be tomorrow."