March 28, 2011
Another week, another tournament, another "wait, wait, I've heard that name before ... " winner on the PGA Tour. Martin Laird played one hell of a tournament to rebound and take down both Spencer Levin and Steve Marino, but chances are you wouldn't recognize any of them if they were sitting next to you at the ballgame. (Assuming you could afford courtside seats, of course. No way they'd be sitting up with the peons.)
Seriously, step back and check out the list of this year's winners so far. Mark Wilson, Jonathan Byrd, Michael Bradley, Gary Woodland ... all fine gentlemen and outstanding golfers, yes, but not exactly the types to get golf fans' hearts aflutter. The only winners this year who rise above the "where do we know him from?" category are Bubba Watson, Nick Watney and (maybe) Luke Donald.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not totally against this state of affairs. For one thing, it's led to some outstanding tournaments, rounds where you have no idea who the hell is going to come away with the win. And for all those who complained about how boring it was that Tiger Woods took the lion's share of tournaments and TV coverage ... kind of a careful-what-you-wish-for thing, isn't it?
We're headed toward Augusta and the start of majors season, when the eminence of the tournament raises anyone who wins to permanent star status. (Yes, even you, Trevor Immelman. Barely.) And while it's a given that Woods or Phil Mickelson in the mix would draw more attention on a Sunday, it wouldn't hurt to have some of the alleged "next generation," like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Anthony Kim, in the hunt either.
What this shows, obviously, is just how freaking hard it is to win a single golf tournament, let alone tournaments by the fistful. This is golf in its natural state, a few eminences surrounded by dozens of strong players who have the ability to rise up for a single weekend and beat even the best in the world.
Still, golf is and always has been defined by star power, and right now, the game is lacking in the "power" side of that equation. By Thanksgiving, we'll have a good idea if our current stars still have what it takes to step up, or if we've got some new legends-to-be now on the tee, but for now ... well, we're stuck with hope rather than expectation.