Monday, August 5, 2013

T, P & E: the Return of the Big 3

These guys own 23 major championship titles
"Tiger who?"

-from a Golf Digest article written by Michael Arkush in early 2012: "Rickie Fowler's Win Proves Golf is in Good Hands"

2011 was arguably a low point in the men's professional golf game. Not because guys like Woods and Mickelson went winless, but more because we had to put up with a lot of obnoxious banner-waving by the golf media about "the new generation", "the changing of the guard", "the youth movement" led by the likes of McIlroy, Fowler, Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa et al.

As they are wont to do the pundits thought they had figured out which way the wind was blowing and breezily declared the end of the Tiger and Phil era. The doomsaying of Tiger Woods alone could fill up a novel or two.

"See ya."
As of now Woods, 37, and Mickelson, 43, are the number one and two golfers in the world once again. Woods leads by a margin of 5.63 world ranking points. To put that into perspective the gap between Tiger and Phil is bigger than the gap between Luke Donald, the #9 ranked player (5.40 Official World Golf Ranking points), and you (0 OWGR points). Fun with stats.

Ernie Els, 43, isn't quite up there in the rankings with T & P (which could've made this post even more pertinent), but let's not forget he's only a year removed from winning a fourth major title, is currently ranked 15th in the world, and just placed T4 in this year's U.S. Open. Also don't forget that the guy Els supplanted as Open Champion was Darren Clarke, an old 44. If E can figure out how putting works again, it would surprise no one if he won big.

New major champions Justin Rose and Adam Scott are both 33, which historically has been a prime age for golfers. Besides T & P, its Rose and Scott's generation that dominates the game. It goes way back. Look at most of the greats--Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, Watson, Player, etc.--they did their best work around that age. Why would things be so different today? Probably because Woods won a bunch in his twenties, now as a result a lot of golf pundits can no longer think straight. (And also because, let's face it in America we have this weird thing with ageism and blanket glorification of youth.)

Meanwhile where's the new generation? Rickie Fowler's grinding away in obscurity, taking pain meds and fighting an aching back.

Golf's "next generation" is hailed for its charisma and cutting-edge style.
Ryo Ishikawa--whoever that is--can't get arrested at a PGA Tour event. Anthony Kim has literally been in hiding for over a year. Just now I tried doing a Google News search to find information on his whereabouts, and all that came up was some stories about someone named LaLa Anthony talking about meeting Kim Kardashian's baby. Anyways A.K.'s been out so long I don't even think he is technically young anymore.

Rory McIlroy is playing like Tiger circa 2010, and getting about as much respect from the golf world.

But hey, I'll give credit where it's due. Unlike some people, I won't fudge facts just to make a point. There's plenty of promising young players, with tangible achievements--Russell Henley, Jordan Spieth, Matteo Manassero are some fine golfers. But a look at the OWGR top 25 tells the real story--it's dominated by, wouldn't you know it, guys in their thirties. And actually there's as many players in their forties as there are in their twenties.

"Screw all of ye!"
So what's the point of all this? Well for one, it's that in golf, until you get really up in years, to the point where the body really starts breaking down, age is probably more an asset than disadvantage. Old golfers have been getting it done for ages. Hell, one of the biggest legends in the game was known legally as Old Tom. Ben Hogan was destroying 'em all at the age of 40, which in 1953 was practically retirement age. (In contrast to the present-day, where most 40-year-olds walk around in backwards baseball caps and flip-flops and still refer to each other as "dude".) So T, P & to a lesser extent E could still very well be the guys to beat for the next several years.

The other point here is, obviously, that the golf media lies in order to sell a hyped-up one-dimensional story. Don't believe it.


  1. Well said.

    Creating the next big name golfer appears to be a full time job for many writers. It is too easy to just allow the players to create the proper pecking order via their results.

    I can understand some of the hoopla surrounding Rory but as you correctly point out, there a lot of pros out there that received way too much ink when measured against their actual results, Rickie in particular.

    1. Proper pecking order--what a concept! But these press jokers wouldn't know proper pecking order if it punched them in the face.

  2. I hear ya. This trend towards media saturation, conventional and social, is distracting as all hell. I don't think there's enough time in a day for Twitter/charity events/sponsor appearances/partying/courting Tennis stars/Dufnering and practicing the 10 hours a day it takes to be better than everyone else. Golf is a different animal from other sports. Sheer inate athletic prowess does not beget success.

    I'd wager to guess that the next golf megastar has to be some tight-lipped, blinders on, mildly autistic prodigy that is only motivated by domination of the golf ball (Hogan) and/or other competitors (Tiger).


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