Golf's new generation has throwback feel
September 30, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- A new group of young guns dominated the PGA TOUR in 2014-15. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking has changed hands each of the last six weeks. That has never happened before.
For the first time since 1997, four players under the age of 27 won multiple times on the PGA TOUR. Three of those victories came in major championships and another four came in a sweep of the FedExCup Playoffs.
Welcome to Generation Next.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have all traded being No. 1 over the last month and a half. That trend won’t change anytime soon (though Spieth should remain there for at least the next few weeks, according to the math).
Between them, Spieth, Day and McIlroy have won 20 times around the world since the start of 2014. They’ve also captured five of the last six majors.
Add Rickie Fowler -- who followed a year in which he was just the third player to finish in the top 5 of all four majors with a two-win season in 2015 that included a playoff victory at THE PLAYERS Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship title -- and the future of golf, in the words of Timbuk 3, is so bright you’ve gotta wear shades.
“I think (golf) is in as great a state as it’s been in a while,” said Spieth, who was seven years away from being born when the one-hit wonder released its smash single in 1986. “I think that people, from my perspective, it seems that fans and I could tell a bit of a difference, they just seem more excited, you can see and it just seems to be having a bit more of an impact in this year than maybe the last couple years.
“Rory’s season last year was one of the greatest seasons that’s been had. So, there's certainly nothing taken away from that. But the fact that there’s been such a high level from numerous guys, it’s cool. We push each other.”
The timing couldn’t be better, either.
Tiger Woods recently underwent a second back surgery in less than two years and will turn 40 at the end of this year. He hasn’t won a major since 2008 and hasn’t won anywhere since 2013.
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, turned 45 this summer and also hasn’t won anything in the last two years. He tied for second at the Masters, but finished four back of Spieth and was never in contention.
When Davis Love III was asked earlier this week if it was difficult to fathom next year’s Ryder Cup team without Woods or Mickelson he admitted it would be. “We’re all getting older,” he said in part.
Jordan Spieth on winning the TOUR Championship, FedExCup
Fortunately, golf’s cupboard isn’t exactly bare.
In 25 starts on the PGA TOUR this season, Spieth, who turned 22 over the summer, won five times, finished second another four times and had 15 top 10s in all -- 13 of which were finishes inside the top 5. At the Masters, he tied the four-day scoring record, matching Woods’ 1997 performance there.
Day wasn’t far behind. In the last two months the 27-year-old Aussie won four times in nine starts and finished no worse than 12th. In his win at Whistling Straits, he set a major championship scoring record in relation to par, finishing his four days at 20 under.
McIlroy’s year was “lost” thanks to an ankle injury on a soccer field over July 4 weekend, but before the 26-year-old Northern Irishman got hurt he already had three worldwide wins, which included a commanding march to victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play.
Fowler, meanwhile was busy taking care of business -- a catchphrase that Fowler has used often this season and one that can be traced back even further to the 1970s hit of the same name -- with breakout performances at TPC Sawgrass and TPC Boston. In between the 26-year-old won the Scottish Open.
There’s little doubt as to who will be named Player of the Year later this week, but the fact all four were on the ballot speaks volumes of this season and the ones ahead.
“I think golf is in good shape,” Day said last week. “Not only with myself and Jordan, but Rory, Rickie, the two guys that played behind us with Danny Lee and (Hideki) Matsuyama. I think golf is in a good spot.
“But to be able to put five win seasons for both of us, it's pretty good. It's kind of like the old Tiger and Phil kind of era when they used to put stuff like that together and now it's kind of our turn to do that.