That was until a year ago, when two names popped up on our radar. One was a 19-year-old Northern Irish kid off winning a European event. The other? A 17-year-old Japanese phenom who was taking tournament titles like they were auction items on eBay.
It didn't take long for Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa to become household names among golf fans. McIlroy had a decent year, finishing in the top 10 twice in majors and making all four cuts. Ishikawa didn't do much either, except beat Tiger in the first round of the British Open while playing in the same group. (Did I mention he was 17?)
This week, Ishikawa embarks on his second year as a PGA Tour hopeful, and opened Thursday at the Northern Trust with five birdies over his first 14 holes, briefly holding second place until two late bogeys dropped him to 3-under. It was still a 68, tying his best opening round on the PGA Tour, and gave people notice that he might be 18, but he's ready to win.
It seems silly to think Ishikawa could win a major this year, until you realize that the kid has already played in three, and has the game that, oh yes I'll say it, could break the post-1900 record for youngest major winner. McIlroy commented earlier this week that he wants to win a major in the next five years. Ishikawa seems special enough to do it now.
On different continents on Thursday, each shot the same score, a 68, with McIlroy doing par one better as he is tied for the lead at the tournament that made him famous a year ago.
The hype might seem like the same old song we're used to hearing, but watching these kids, I think it's safe to say that the results will be different.