Wow. What a great last couple of weekends. And I’m not just talking about the PGA Championship. Both tours (PGA and LPGA) had amazing tournaments, and the City Tour saw some great play in its final weekend. Since I believe chivalry isn’t dead (just on life-support) I’m going to start with the women.
The LPGA contested their longest-running non-major tournament, the Cambia Portland Classic, at Columbia Edgewater CC two weekends ago in Portland, OR. The most important and impressive headline being the fact that the pride of Canadian golf, Brooke Henderson, won the event in stunning fashion. Henderson became the third-youngest champion in LPGA Tour history at 17 years, 11 months, 6 days. And if that’s not impressive enough she beat the second-place finishers by eight strokes. She played truly awesome golf as she Monday-qualified for the event with a 68, and then shot rounds of 66-67-65-69 while recording only three bogeys for the whole tournament (one in second-round and two in final-round). Whew.
On the men’s side, we got to witness one of the most enthralling Majors in recent memory. And that is saying something considering the Majors this year. It was a treat to watch Jason Day and Jordan Spieth battling on the last day of the PGA Championship with so many others making late pushes and scoring bunches of birdies while avoiding holes where double bogeys were just as easy to come by.
As I mentioned in my PGA preview, the course was going to be a talking point. Even though 16 players reached double-digits under par, do not be fooled that the course was “easy”. I think a testament to this was the performance of little known Japanese player Hiroshi Iwata who shot 77 on Thursday and bounced back on Friday to make the cut while setting a new course record and tying the low-round ever in a major of 63. Everyone has an opinion of Nick Faldo as an analyst but I thought his metaphor of the course playing on a knife’s edge was apt. A slight miss was almost always costly without hitting brilliant recovery shots.
The Top 17 (with ties) was littered with golf’s new generation of stars and budding stars. Including golf’s new Big 3: Jordan, Rory, and Jason (sorry Rickie/DJ, like I said...gotta win a major to be in the conversation). Of those 17 players, 13 were of the 30-and-under category. I think it’s safe to the say the changing of the guard has happened. It’s no longer something that’s going to happen, it’s here, it’s done, it’s arrived. I feel like we missed the transitional phase because we were so busy talking about Tiger’s off-course drama/rehab that we didn’t take the young guns seriously. Now that they’re winning majors it’s a done deal.
Tiger will always be fascinating and a topic of conversation for numerous reasons. But, let’s take a moment to appreciate the generation he single-handedly created (and I include myself in this group). All of these guys between the ages of 22 (Jordan) to 30 (Kaymer) were either in grade school or middle school when Tiger won his first Masters or during his incredible 2000 season. They saw a singular personality doing things on a golf course that were previously thought impossible e.g. 300+ yard drives, 200 yard 7-irons from the rough, expecting to hole-out bunker/chip shots, etc.
This is all to say youth is being served on a large-scale. Nowhere is this more evident than on the LPGA Tour. Yes, LPGA tour (as evidenced by Brooke Henderson above) where the average age of the Top 10 women in the rankings is 24.9 years old. For comparison, the Top 10 on the PGA Tour is 32.3 years but if you take out Jim Furyk (#6 and age 45) the number drops closer to 30 years old.
So, for all of those pundits putting out a bleak outlook for the game of golf among the next generation, start spreading the news that the game is in good, young hands.