We have a changing of the guard in golf

By Steve Sell
August 17, 2015

It’s probably too painful for some to accept, but loyal golf followers are just going to have to get over it.

The Tiger-Phil era is over.

Woods and Mickelson have carried the sport for the past 15 to 20 years. They are two of the most popular golfers of all time and Tiger brought in fans who would never watch the game if not for him. In fact, just check the TV ratings when Tiger is in contention against those where he’s out of it or simply doesn’t play. The gulf is canyon-wide.

But as in every sport, at some point there’s a turnover as nobody has ever defeated Father Time. The new wave in golf has arrived and arrived with a vengeance, equipped with a bomber’s mentality and no fear of the longtime standard-bearers and shark-red shirts.

For the record, Tiger trunked it on Friday in three of the four 2015 majors. He opened the PGA with a 75 and responded with a meek 73, not even sniffing the final two rounds. That he missed three cuts in a season is a story in itself, but missing them in the majors is the exclamation point as to how much his career has cratered. He’s still four majors behind Jack Nickluas, but it may as well be 40 unless he can find his past glory.

Phil barely made the cut, then made a few ripples with a 66 on Saturday that included nine birdies, and shot a respectable 69 on Sunday. But in no way was he ever thought to be a contender as he was a dozen shots back at the end.

This is now the era of Jason, Jordan and Rory.

Jason Day has been this era’s Greg Norman (not just because are Aussies). In the past five years, his name has virtually been an automatic near the top in the majors as he plays the toughest courses well and finally broke through on Sunday. What he did to supposedly terrorizing Whistling Straits was nothing short of domination. He turned a 7,500-yard layout into a pitch-and-putt, hitting several drives more than 350 yards.

It’s difficult to relate Jordan Spieth to a player from the past. He’s well back in driving distance, but dissects courses like a surgeon. He hits crisp irons and is regarded as the best putter in the world. If he had Day’s length, everybody else would definitely be playing for second place. In the four majors, he won two of them, and finished second and third in the other two.

And don’t forget about Rory McIlroy, who was displaced by Spieth on Sunday as the sport’s No. 1-ranked player in the world. He bombs it like Day and hits irons like Spieth. His putting can come and go, but he has been a force in the majors.

Day, Spieth and McIlroy remind me of the days of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player of the 1960s. They were the “Big 3” and the favorites when they entered any tournament.

I wonder what Tiger and Phil were thinking after this tournament. Tiger will spend the rest of the year searching for his lost greatness while Lefty is in dire need of a compass. It seemed like everytime he was shown on TV, he was hitting out of deep rough or a bunker.

I’ve lived long enough to watch the changing of the guard in golf on several occasions and we’re in that mode now. It’s time we embrace it and not hold on to the past.