Remember when Tiger Woods was the face of golf? He dominated the game for over a decade, compiling 79 PGA Tour wins and 14 Majors. Tiger electrified golf fans worldwide, elevating the game and increasing ratings drastically. Young adults and teenagers started becoming golf fans, which was non-existent prior to his emergence. Now, as he nears the age of 40, he has hit a sharp decline, mainly due to health reasons. That’s opened the door to a younger generation of players — those who idolized Tiger growing up.
The younger players, led by the likes of Rory McIlroy, 25, and Jordan Speith, 21, have taken over in 2015. Ranked #1 and #2 in the world, respectively, they have replaced the usual suspects on top of the world rankings. Fellow youngsters Jason Day, 27, Rickie Fowler, 26, and Patrick Reed, 24 have also made their mark on the PGA Tour. All five players are currently ranked in the top 15 in the world.
Veteran players, such as Phil Michelson, Sergio Garcia, and Jim Furyk have maintained their elite play. However, the best player of my generation, Tiger Woods, has fallen off the map. Luckily for the PGA, these young superstars have helped to keep the sport relevant.
Rory McIlroy has amassed nine PGA Tour wins and four Majors since he turned pro in 2007. He became the first player since Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods to win four Majors by the age of 25. Many golf experts and fans alike have labeled him the “next Tiger Woods.” Although most would crumble under that type of pressure, Rory has embraced the expectations to become the next dominant figure in golf. Nike acknowledged his potential, signing him to a $200 million, 10-year contract. He has replaced Tiger as the highest-paid endorser of Nike golf.
Following in Rory’s footsteps, Jordan Speith has emerged as a player to be reckoned with. This past Sunday, Jordan, at the young age of 21, became the second-youngest to win the Masters, slightly older than Tiger was when he won his first Masters. He tied the tournament record, finishing at 18-under, again tying Tiger’s record. So far in 2015, he has recorded seven top-10 finishes in nine tournaments, winning two. He has accumulated three PGA Tour victories in just over two years.
As these young superstars continue their dominance in a so called “old-man sport,” millions of kids across the world are following in their footsteps, idolizing these young stars — much like they did with Tiger Woods. This is great for the future of golf. We can expect the popularity of golf to continue to rise for years to come. By 2020, these five stars will win multiple Majors, earn millions, and earn their claim to fame, while paving the way for younger generations to keep falling in love with the beautiful sport that is golf.