After being recently cleared by doctors to return to golf without restriction, speculation is once again ablaze as to whether Tiger Woods will ascend back to the top of the game and reclaim his throne.
Speculation is once again ablaze as to whether Tiger Woods will ascend back to the top of the game.
The almost total domination
he showed at his peak has been unmatched since, and perhaps never will be. In recent years, a crop of twenty-somethings have shown that players can compete younger, train harder and win in just as spectacular fashion as Tiger. But the question remains, will there ever be another player like him?
Justin Thomas, 2016/17 Player of the Year, 6-time winner, major champion and FedEx Cup Champion at just 24 has certainly thrown his hat into the ring as a force to be reckoned with. Also just 24, Thomas' good friend Jordan Spieth has had equally impressive success in a relatively short time period, and now has 3 legs of the career grand slam under his belt. Another exciting prospect is 22-year old Spaniard Jon Rahm, who managed his first career win during the 2016/17 season. The current crop of young players is bursting with talent, as is the highly competitive Web.com Tour which produces a number of PGA Tour graduates each year.
Perhaps this is the main difference between the state of the Tour now compared to when Tiger was at his dominant best. Every week, practically every player in the field has the potential to play their best golf and take home the title. Even looking past the younger group, players like 41-year old journeyman Pat Perez have shown that anyone is a chance, with Perez taking out the season-opening CIMB Classic just a few weeks ago.
However, at his best, Tiger seemed simply unbeatable. The closest I feel we've seen to this was Spieth's 2015 season, which included Masters and US Open victories, top-5 finishes in the other two majors, and victory in the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. In almost every major tournament of the year, Spieth was either on top or well and truly in the mix. Henrik Stenson seemed almost shell-shocked as he watched him pour in crucial long putts throughout the final round of the Tour Championship. This was the tournament that he showed he could grind out a victory without necessarily playing his best golf. That ability to “win ugly” and close out a tournament is crucial to becoming a world beater for an extended period, and Spieth seems to have that nailed (2016 Masters aside!).
I certainly feel that Spieth and Thomas could kick on to become greats of the game, perhaps along with one or two others in the mould of the “Big Three” of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. There's never a dull moment when someone heats up, and perhaps the most exciting part is that it could come from any one at any time. While watching Tiger tear fields apart was great, I'm more excited about the prospect of a group of dominant players emerging, battling it out week after week to be the very best.
It truly is a great time to be a golf fan, with the PGA and European Tours both oozing talent. The exciting thing is, a new player could emerge from the shadows as a world beater, that's just how many incredible players there are on the world stage currently. They're are hitting the ball further and straighter than ever, and remain cool under pressure thanks to the huge competition they've had to face to earn their spots on Tour. In the words of the PGA Tour marketing campaign of a few years back, these guys are good.
↑ Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth laugh on the practice range during the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas in Nassau, Bahamas.