Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Golden Age?

The New World Order is about to take over in golf - and that NWO has less to do with Tiger and Phil, and more to do with Kyle and Spencer.  The golf landscape is being manicured by new young guns that you've never heard of, evidenced mostly by the out of nowhere year that Webb Simpson had in 2011.

I guess you could go back to Zach Johnson's win at Augusta in 2007 to see the beginning of this renaissance, and coupled with Woods' injuries and scandal the emergence of players you've never heard of winning golf tournaments is a testament to the strength of the game on US soil and overseas.  The emergence of first time major winners has hit an all time high in the last four years, and speaks to the strength of golf as a whole and victories from many players that the layperson has never heard of.

The PGA tour has always been dominated by superstars - Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer, Norman, Watson, Couples, Tiger, Phil, Vijay, etc.  But for every Tiger Woods there is a Corey Pavin, a journeyman who won his handful of regular events and one major, and in recent years other journeymen like Steve Striker have taken control of the PGA Tour and actually dominated it, even after falling in to obscurity for a number of years.

In the last few years we've seen players like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and others say "we've got game, and we won't back down."  It's one of the greatest traits of the PGA Tour.  Mark Wilson, the journeymen of journeymen, won two tournaments before the end of February in 2011, and the bar was set.  Rickie Fowler is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, and you know it's coming sooner rather than later.  There is now also a corps of rookies led by Bud Cauley that looks to be as promising as anything in the last twenty years.

And through it all people are going to be looking to see if Tiger is truly back; if Phil can find a way to play through what may be a dibilitating arthritis; if Webb Simpson is in fact the next great big thing; if Sergio can win The Open Championship as so many pundits are predicting; or if Rory McIlroy is the next annoited one, if Geoff Ogilvy can take the crown coming in to his prime, or if any of a couple of hundred truly talented players, led by the reigning best player in the world Luke Donald, can stake a claim as the greatest player not only of this moment, but of this generation.

There are no divisions or conferences in golf - as much as people say there is a divide between US golf, European golf and world golf, all the best players find their way to the biggest events.  2012 may prove to be the year that golf took yet another step forward and possibly to a golden age that few had seen coming, but many had hoped for.

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