No sport offers quite the longevity to its players as golf. You can play at a reasonably competitive professional level for more than four decades, or more than ten times the length of your average NFL career. When guys like Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy hit it so big at such a young age, it's not out of the question to think they'll still be competitive in the 2040s. (When we'll be playing golf on the moon or whatever.)
However, there's one big question looming over many of these players: what will keep them pushing to play? For earlier generations, the Champions Tour is the equivalent of an ATM; see ball, hit ball, cash check. But now, when golfers can amass more money in a tournament than many fans make in a decade? Yeah, the financial incentive isn't quite there.
Rory McIlroy hinted as much in a recent Irish Independent interview. (Via Wei Under Par.) When asked about whether he'd buy a private plane -- you know, the kind of questions we're all kicking around -- in order to extend his career, he replied, "I don't plan to be playing tournament golf in my forties."
Sure, easy to say now, but if he continues on his current trajectory, why would he? Kid's going to have half a dozen majors before he's 30. And since pursuit of Tiger and Jack may be out of the question, what would he have left to prove by then?
First step, though: winning the Masters. And he's lasered in. "Everything I do from the time I return to the game in the New Year will be geared to the Masters," he said. "And next April at Augusta, instead of being with the lads (his friends), I'll be sharing a house with my mum and dad. It's important to have them there."
Anyone feel like betting against him? Yeah, didn't think so. But watch closely, because it looks like we may not have him around as long as we'd thought.