Parity, in the post-Tiger Woods era, is alive and kicking. Not counting the season’s first two majors, 10 straight PGA Tour events have been decided by one shot or in a playoff. The difference between a two-year exemption and obscurity could be just a missed chip or putt.
Without Woods’ dominating presence, golf has opened up to the masses. And the rank and file continue to climb all over each other each week trying to get to the top.
The trend started after Phil Mickelson’s two-shot win at the Houston Open prior to The Masters. After Charl Schwartzel’s surprising birdie romp to the green jacket, things got interesting. Rookie Brendan Steele fended off two players by one shot to win his first Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. From there, the next four events went to playoffs: Brandt Snedeker stunned current world No. 1 Luke Donald at the Heritage, Bubba Watson beat Webb Simpson at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Lucas Glover ousted former Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd at the Wells Fargo Championship and K.J. Choi beat David Toms at The Players Championship. Toms recovered to beat Charlie Wi by a shot the following week at The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Rookie Keegan Bradley outlasted Ryan Palmer in a playoff for his first Tour win at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Steve Stricker earned the biggest victory of his career at the Memorial, beating Brandt Jobe and Matt Kuchar by a shot. In his 356th start, Harrison Frazar won the FedEx St. Jude Classic over Robert Karlsson in a playoff. And Fredrik Jacobson got his first win by finishing one stroke better than Ryan Moore and John Rollins at the Travelers. Golf has become must-see TV around 4 p.m. Sundays because the back nine of every tournament has been filled with fireworks. All these down-to-the-wire finishes have been good for the game as it searches for an identity without many true superstars.