PRESS BOX: Former VCU great Lanto Griffin deserves more recognition on PGA Tour

Illustration by Marisa Stratton

Ryan Grube, Contributing Writer

After graduating from VCU in 2010 following a successful golf career with the black and gold, it took Lanto Griffin a while to find his footing at the professional level. But in the last year, Griffin has lit up on the PGA Tour, securing a victory at the Houston Open in October and notching five top-25 finishes since the PGA’s restart in June.

Because of this recent success, it’s time for the Blacksburg, Virginia, native to start receiving more recognition from the public and golf analysts.

Upon his departure from VCU, Griffin participated in lower-tier events of the professional golf ranks. He began his career on the South American tour before working his way up to the Korn Ferry Tour –– the development assignment for the PGA.

Griffin lost his PGA Tour card in 2018 but regained it after a victory on the Korn Ferry Tour and a sixth-place finish in points for the 2019 season. 

Now, fresh off an 18th-place finish in the 2020 Fed-Ex Cup standings, Griffin appears poised to assert himself as one of golf’s rising prodigies.

Since regaining his tour card in 2019, Griffin has recorded four top-10 finishes, along with 14 top-25 outings, which begs the question as to why the former VCU great is so vastly overlooked during PGA events.

“This year has been big for me in a lot of ways, but especially with the self-image … as a golfer,” Griffin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in August. “We are playing against the best players in the world. It’s been fun. It’s been a dream year.”

During PGA telecasts, Griffin is typically only highlighted for special moments like dunking a long shot from the fairway or sinking a long putt on the green.

Meanwhile, national viewers get to watch shot-by-shot footage of high-profile players such as Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, whether they are in contention or not.

It’s understandable why golf legends like Woods and McIlroy are featured so often — their decorative careers certainly speak for themselves.

But if a player like Griffin is excelling and contending for a possible victory or top-10 finish, there should be no reason why they aren’t featured consistently during live coverage. Griffin has excelled since the restart, unlike Woods, McIlroy and other household names. 

Griffin isn’t going to shock anyone with a particular stat. For the 2020 season, he ranked 42nd on the tour in driving distance –– 302.5 yards –– 39th in strokes gained putting, 76th in strokes gained on approaches to the green, and 72nd in strokes gained tee-to-green.

Griffin stands out on the field, however, with his consistency in his overall game. Over the course of the 2020 campaign, he ranked in the top half of all players in every major statistical category, except for two –– driving accuracy percentage at 145th and greens in regulation percentage at 137th out of 193 qualified players.

Griffin’s steady play netted him at least $3 million in total winnings during the 2020 campaign. It put him on the map for players to watch heading into the 2021 season, which kicked off with the U.S. Open last week at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Griffin finished tied for 43rd place with a score of 15 over par in his first U.S. Open appearance. 

Following Thursday’s opening round at Winged Foot, Griffin sat just six shots back of 5-under-par leader Justin Thomas.

But in Bleacher Report’s summary heading into Friday’s outing, the article was quick to highlight Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Woods, who all remained behind Griffin, and eight shots back from Thomas.

The former VCU standout is too young and talented of a player to be receiving such limited coverage, especially considering the undeniable success he’s experienced since earning his most recent tour card.

If Griffin is able to continue his high level of play into the 2021 season, there is no doubt that he should garner more recognition from national media outlets. 

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