Sunday, July 31, 2016

Golf's new age

Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead. Or at least one Eldrick Tont Woods appears to be on the ropes. Now 40, nobody, including Tiger, knows for sure if he'll ever even play competitive golf again -- let alone return to championship form.

They are many who said Woods was good for golf, and they have a valid point. During his reign, interest in the game seemed to spike. Tiger-mania spread like wildfire. His legions of groupies were everywhere.

But he was also bad for the game in the sense that tournament coverage seemed to revolve around him to the exclusion of other worthy players. See Tiger yawn. See Tiger eat a banana. See Tiger curse. See Tiger pound a club. See Tiger highlights even when he wasn't PLAYING in the particular tournament. It got to be ridiculous.

To his credit, Woods had arguably the most dominant decade in golf of all time. He was winning seemingly everything and few doubted he would easily pass Jack Nicklaus' mark of winning majors. Then his personal life, health, and game imploded and he hasn't been the same since.

Some thought the "demise" of Tiger would adversely affect the game of golf itself. They couldn't have been more wrong. Other stars have burst forth and golf remains as exciting, if not more so, than ever.

For a brief period a young Rory McIlroy appeared to inherit the throne. He would fall back. The Irishman is now 28 years old and scuffling with his game week to week.

Jordan Spieth set the golf world on fire last year by winning a couple majors (and almost a third). He has since cooled off a bit, still at the tender age of 22.

This year presented something unique. All four major winners were first-timers. And their ages are noteworthy as well.

Englishman Danny Willett surprised everybody (at least in America) by winning the Masters. He's 28 and long a fixture on the European tour but was unknown to most Yanks.

Dustin Johnson captured the US Open by overwhelming the course, and the competition, with his mammoth length. DJ has been around for a decade or so, and come close before, but this was his first major win at the age of 32.

Phil Mickelson put up a valiant effort at the (British) Open. Yet in a Sunday duel for the ages, Swede Henrik Stenson was able to stave him off. Lefty is now 46 and has won his share of majors in the past. This was the first for the 30 year old Stenson.

Jimmy Walker always seems to be on leaderboards, but winning this year's PGA tourney was his first major as well. Walker is 37, no spring chicken on the Tour.

The above four are all worthy champions indeed and yours truly would submit this is exactly the kind of thing golf needs as opposed to the Tiger Woods era.

When Woods was in his heyday the tournaments became boring to an objective fan. Tiger this and Tiger that, while he was the overwhelming favorite to win.

It's much better to have wide open competition. Brand new winners are always a good thing. Ask the hoops fans in Cleveland.

While celebrated in some quarters, dynasties are generally bad for the games. The vast majority of fans don't want to see the same team (or individual) winning time after time.

Tennis star Serena Williams certainly has her rooters, but many more take satisfaction in seeing her lose.

The Dallas Cowboys once pompously called themselves America's Team. They had far more haters than lovers. Same with the NY Yankees. Or the "showtime" Lakers.

It was much the same with Tiger Woods, but those that never much cared for him had to be careful lest they be called haters, or worse, racists. For whatever reasons, people root for those individuals or teams that strike their fancy. They are also free to root against whoever they choose, although this practice is frowned on in the name of political correctness.

It shouldn't be. Where is it written that a golf fan that has ponied up big bucks to attend a tournament is free to yell -- "GO IN THE HOLE" after a shot has been taken by one of their favorites -- but is NOT allowed to yell -- "GO IN THE WATER/DITCH" if the same short is taken by a player they are not fond of?

One can cheer tennis players, but it is taboo to boo them. Shouldn't paying customers have that right as well?

They do it at baseball, football, hockey, and basketball games. But I digress.

For now, let us enjoy the "new blood" we're seeing at the highest level of golf winning their first championships.

The game has been around for well over a century and was just fine when the likes of Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Watson, and many others passed through. It remains fine without them. Same with Eldrick Tont Woods. He has his time and now it appears over.

And I, for one, find the game much more interesting to watch with the current crop of players.

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