Golf experiencing a changing of the guard

By Steve Sell
August 11, 2014

Monday’s musings as we’re one week away from the start of high school sports practices...

• NEW ERA OF GOLF — Golf worshippers are just going to have to get over it and deal with it.

But the fact of the matter is, the Tiger Woods era — as we know it — is over.

That point was literally driven home Sunday by Rory McIlroy, whose routine 330-yard drives and cloud-scraping wedges into the soft greens of Valhalla enabled him to win his second straight major and his third tournament is as many starts.

There’s no doubt that Rory — he’s good enough now to be referred to in the same one-name vain as Tiger and Lefty — is comfortable atop the golf world. When you destroy two venues the way he has in the last two majors, that’s validation that Tiger certainly would tip his cap to.

And now the talking heads are on the fast track to ascending Rory as the most likely golfer to break Jack Nicklaus’ gold standard of 18 majors, a record revered as much as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in baseball.

Rory doesn’t quite have Tiger’s charisma yet. Tiger was a one-of-a-kind golfer, though I might still be a bit premature in using the term “was.”

But Tiger’s body and discombobulated swing have betrayed him. He is broken down and needs to take off until he’s been put back together, kind of like Humpty Dumpty. He has been little more than a spectator this summer in the majors and in the last two he couldn’t even beat Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, who is 25 years his elder. Tiger doesn’t deserve a spot on the team, despite his pedigree. That he’s chopping it around isn’t fair to the golfers who have played an entire schedule and worked hard for the opportunity.

Let’s face it, golf needs a new star. The tour has been all about Tiger and Lefty for far too long. And while Tiger has been to the game what Arnie and Jack were, we all know that at some point Father Time wins out. He’s undefeated in his career and even Tiger is finding that out.

Let’s quit obsessing about Tiger until he shows he can be relevant again. Let’s focus on Rory and Rickie Fowler and soon Jordan Speith. There’s a changing of the guard whether Tiger followers like it or not.

• PLAYOFF BASEBALL — With all of this talk of the wild-card in the last week, have we forgotten that the Kansas City Royals could actually win their division?

That seemed unfathomable about two weeks ago. The Detroit Tigers were rolling along with a no-stress lead and had just added former Cy Young winner David Price, giving them the last three Cy winners and the feeling they could blow this thing open at any time.

The Royals, on the other hand, twiddled their thumbs at the trade deadline, unless you call the trade of spare part Danny Valencia to Toronto a game-changer.

So what happened? The Tigers’ bullpen has collapsed and now injuries are mounting. The streaky Royals got hot again as they continue on their season-long roller-coaster ride.

Kansas City swept the punchless San Francisco Giants, has reeled off seven wins in a row and 15 successes in the past 18 games. Big bad Oakland comes to town for four games beginning tonight, the perfect time for KC to make a statement to the baseball world that it’s in for the long haul.

The Royals’ pitching has never been questioned. But now they’re beginning to hit and ironically it started when Eric Hosmer went down with a hand fracture. Billy Butler has returned to being Billy Butler, while the Royals actually are starting to intersperse some home runs among their spate of singles. It’s nice to see some balls leave the yard for once.

The Royals’ pitching has been nothing short of phenomenal. For them to actually pull this off, James Shields has to stay on his roll, and young guns Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura can’t hit the wall. They’re on the verge of entering the great unknown of what it’s like to deal with a workload. Kansas City might think about making a late deal for a veteran starting pitcher if they can get him through waivers. One more quality arm wouldn’t hurt.

• JOHNNY FOOTBALL DEBUTS — I watched the debut Saturday night of Johnny Football.

Johnny Manziel, the wildly overhyped rookie quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, saw extensive time in their 13-12 exhibition loss to Detroit.

Granted, it was second string against second string, but Manziel did show some chutzpah. He scrambled for a couple of first downs and hit on a couple of nice outs. He didn’t show much in terms of throwing the ball upfield, but I did like the excitement level he brought to the game.

Perhaps no team in the NFL in the last 10 years has been more irrelevant than Cleveland. And while I don’t think Manziel will open the season as the starter, if the Browns are pedestrian the first few weeks he might get the call, which would sell a lot of tickets. He still looks rather tiny on the field and I cringe when he takes off running. You can bet these NFL veterans are sick of hearing about him and want to tee off on the fresh meat.

I want him to succeed. I think he’d be good for the game, kind of a Joe Namath of his era. Football needs more colorful characters. Even though the NFL is head and shoulders above all the other sports in popularity, I think it’s lost a little bit of its edge in terms of personality.