Ryan Ruffels gets his first professional start tonight.
Ryan Ruffels gets his first professional start tonight. Robert Cianflone/GETTY IMAGES

Young gun out to ruffle a few feathers

Victorian teenager Ryan Ruffels will make his eagerly awaited professional debut at the famed Torrey Pines course in San Diego tonight, with the same goal a young Jason Day once had of becoming the world's No.1 player.

The son of former Australian tennis professional Ray Ruffels, Ryan will be the youngest Australian to tee up in a US PGA Tour event when he lines up with 13 other Aussies.

That conhort includes Day, the defending champion at the event, who was too ill to play a scheduled practice round with the 17-year-old earlier this week.

All eyes with be on young Ruffels, who displays a similar maturity and confidence to Day when he arrived on the golf scene from Beaudesert a decade ago, declaring he would take down Tiger Woods.

While Australian players such as Day and US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy have a big opinion of the youngster, so too does five-time major winner Mickelson after being skinned of $5000 in a recent practice round.

Mickelson offered Ruffels 2-1 odds on the first tee, saying he would give him $5000 if he beat him, and take $2500 from his first professional pay cheque if he lost.

Down by five shots, Ruffels reeled off six birdies in his last seven holes to beat the American by one shot to pocket the cash.

Ruffels has seven starts to earn enough points for special temporary membership of the Tour, which would allow him to play more tournaments and try for a full card next season.

A two-time Australian junior champion, the teen has already been picked up by sportswear and apparel giant Nike after saying he couldn't delay his switch to the pro ranks any longer.

"It would have been nice to win another junior and make history with a third title, or win the senior trophy, but the real history is made as a pro - winning majors and PGA Tour events," Ruffels said.

"As much as the amateur stuff is great, and I'll always cherish those tournament wins, the real stuff is going to be on the pro tour and I'm glad I'm going to get into that now."

Ruffels had a brief fling on the US Tour as an amateur in last year's Canadian Open, giving a glimpse of his potential with an opening round of 66 before buckling under the pressure.

"I felt like I handled that pretty well in the first round, and while it didn't finish off the way I wanted it to, at least it gave me a good gauge of my game," he said.

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