COMMENTARY | I've always been a big believer in the notion that to appreciate the present, we must remember the past.
Modern grade-schoolers will never understand the awesomeness that was Nintendo 64, because they're playing games with terrifyingly realistic graphics rather than blurry cartoon characters. Twenty-somethings today will never as grateful as their parents are for the blue-ray televisions they flip through, because the older generation grew up crowding around a static-y microwave-looking contraption formerly known as a television, now classified as an historic artifact.
So to truly appreciate the talent that we have witnessed holding up the Claret Jug or donning the Green Jacket or kissing the U.S. Open trophy, we must take a look at what we've been witness to these past few parity-filled years of championship golf.
While this season we have been blessed with the likes of Adam Scott (No. 4 in the world), Justin Rose (No. 5), and Phil Mickelson (No. 2), the past five years have not been quite filled with such household names.
One of the great bar trivia questions right now could be to list the four major winners from 2009. Can't name 'em? Can't say I blame you. If curiosity got the better of you, which it did me, the 2009 Big Four were Angel Cabrera (Masters, his second major win), Lucas Glover (U.S. Open), Stewart Cink (British), and Y.E. Yang (PGA).
Cabrera is the obvious star of that quartet, with Cink as a sort-of-close second. Glover, meanwhile, hasn't been heard of since, and neither has Yang. While Cink and Cabrera are pretty typical names near the top of leaderboards, and both very affable competitors, neither Glover nor Yang are in the top 200 in the world rankings -- essentially one-hit wonders, though Glover made a blip when he won the Wells Fargo in 2011.
So let that sink in for a second, and then take a look at what we have thus far in 2013: Scott, the purest swing on tour and, had he not adopted the belly putter, would likely be the second-most popular behind Mickelson; Rose, one of the best ball-strikers and currently second behind a one Tiger Woods in average score (69.32); and Lefty, one of the most well-liked celebrities on the planet who was thought to be out of his prime only to storm back in it with a near-miss at the U.S. Open and a wild Sunday charge to win his first British, bringing with him a torrent of Mickelson fever.
No, we have not seen Woods as the last man standing on the 18th green. It would be something if he notched No. 15 (surely he will get to No. 15, right?) at Oak Hill come the season's final major in a few weeks, but it doesn't appear that golf desperately needs Woods to win anymore. There are new kids -- and a few old-timers -- on the blocks that seem to be taking their rightful place in the golfing hierarchy, whether it be reclaiming it (ahem, Mickelson, Ernie Els) or settling in (Rose, Scott, Rory McIlroy).
When Woods and the fire-hydrant saga erupted back in November of 2009, nobody could have predicted the direction that golf would take without its prodigious talent at the helm, though the majority would have guessed down -- at first. And they would be correct -- at first.
In 2008, Woods won his 14th major (U.S. Open), and Padraig Harrington swept the back half for majors two and three (Trevor Immelman won the Masters that year). Preceding '08, Woods claimed four in two years, Mickelson won three in as many seasons, Zach Johnson introduced himself to the scene, Vijay Singh was still winning. Golf was good. But after 2008, we witnessed 15 consecutive majors won by 15 different players, an eclectic mix of surprises, surges and grizzled vets. Not that parity is a bad thing for any sport; it makes it fun to watch and all the more interesting to see play out, but it wasn't the type of elite parity we're seeing unfold this season.
Scott, Rose and Mickelson are all decidedly elite players with decidedly elite careers destined for a Hall of Fame bookend. Not to knock on Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Glover and Yang -- let it be known, anybody who wins a major golf tournament is a supremely talented golfer -- but it's a different class of major winners this year, and they have come with hand-in-hand with some wildly entertaining contests to boot.
Playoff to win the Masters? Comes down to the 18th hole for the U.S.? Five-shot comeback to win the British? Yes, please. Golf may have struggled for a few years post-Woods' uninterrupted dominance, but looking at it now, it might never have been so good.
Travis Mewhirter has been working in the golf industry since 2007, when he was a bag room manager at Piney Branch Golf Club in Carroll County, Maryland, and has been involved, as a player, since 2004. Since then, he has worked at Hayfields Country Club, where the Constellation Energy Classic was formerly held, and has covered golf at the high school, college, and professional levels.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- Adam Scott
- Justin Rose
- Lucas Glover