The PGA Tour is embarking on a youth movement.
The start of a new PGA Tour season is only four short weeks away. I know you can barely contain your excitement, so here's a developing story line to tide you over. The era of Tiger and Phil is over; bring on the young guns. That's the PGA Tour's story, and they're sticking to it — at least until their two meal tickets start playing better.
"I think the takeaway on the competition side of 2010, more than anything else, was the tremendous interest in young players coming up,” said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem during a recent conference call. “I’ve never in my tenure seen so much buzz and interest about rookies and young players creating exciting performances. Actually, it has led us to conclude that we really need to focus on that dynamic as we go into 2011."
The commish has a point; twentysomethings are storming the gates of the PGA Tour. Martin Kaymer (25) and Louis Oosthuizen (28) are the last two major championship winners. Dustin Johnson (26), Rory McIlroy (21), Rickie Fowler (21) and 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa are crazy talented and charismatic to boot.
But can this new generation appeal to sponsors and intrigue the casual fans who move the needle when it comes to ratings? Remains to be seen, but history says it'll be tough. More than any other sport, golf prefers to hype its established stars to its young whipper-snappers. Tiger was the exception, and no one I've cited can match his combination of talent, pedigree and historical import.
The Tour could do worse than to hitch its wagon to the aforementioned young guns. But I suspect that behind closed doors, Finchem is on his knees praying for a Tiger-Phil duel at Augusta.