A new generation of players has slung the PGA Tour over one shoulder and begun briskly toting it out of the Tiger Woods Era.
Yes, there is a beating heart to professional golf – a rather vital one it turns out – even while the most dynamic, galvanizing player that has ever been turns 40 at the end of this year while becoming downright painful to watch, in a fat-Elvis kind of way.
Just keep putting Jordan Spieth and Jason Day in the final group on Sunday, and everything will be just fine.
The television ratings from the just-completed final major of the year are in, and more eyeballs gazed upon all or part of the weekend’s PGA Championship telecast than at any time since 2009 (when Woods lost to Y.E. Yang).
The top three-ranked players in the world are all well south of 30 – Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Day. Seven of the top 20-ranked players are all 20-somethings. Then there’s Dustin Johnson, just 31 and positioned to overpower one of these big events some day if his head ever gets right.
And it’s not just their birth certificates that make them appealing. They play some spectacular, daring golf, rising to the moment and baring a full menu of emotions along the way. In other words, this is a genuinely likable bunch that provides terrific sporting theater. Dare we say it: Tiger who?
When defending FedEx Cup/Tour Championship winner, 28-year-old Billy Horschel, passed through Atlanta Monday to promote next month’s playoff finale at East Lake, he spoke to the large and lasting impact this young core will have.
“We have a lot of 20-something-year-olds playing well, that’s just the way the game is going,” Horschel said. “Everyone is coming out younger and more confident and more ready to play. And when the guys in their 20s get to their 30s, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to go off and die in the desert. We’re still going to be good players, we still going to be the ones leading golf for the next 10 or 15 years.”
And, speaking specifically on Day’s appeal after winning his first major Sunday, Horschel added, “You want to see a guy who’s a human being and Jason showed that on the 18th green (when he broke down sobbing). He’s not a robot; he’s a person just like the rest of us.”
The rumors of golf’s demise in the age after Tiger have been greatly exaggerated.