With the conclusion of the PGA Championship on Sunday, we can all sit back and admire this year’s class of champions. With the exception of Sergio Garcia, all of the Major winners this year were under the age of 27.
Justin Thomas (24) won the PGA Championship on Sunday, Jordan Spieth captured The Open (just before his 24th birthday) and Brooks Koepka – at 27 – took home the U.S. Open.
It’s a new age in the golf world, as older players like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are phased out with the coming of a new generation of golf super stars.
It is ironic that Phil Mickelson missed the cut this week at his 100th start at a Major championship (it was Els’ 100th start as well), and at the same time, Thomas joins Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Rory McIlroy as the only players under the age of 25 to win a PGA Championship.
Thomas grew up watching Tiger and witnessed his pinnacle year of 2000 when he won the PGA Championship at at Valhalla.
“That’s kind of the first memory for me in terms of … being at a golf tournament,” Thomas said. “I wanted to play professional golf; any kid, whatever they are doing, they think they are going to be the best at it and they want to be the best at it, whatever it is.
“Then to have [Tiger] basically cheering me on, how he’s been this week or the last couple days, it’s … bizarre, it really is. I was seven years old and watching it in the clubhouse, and he hits the putt on camera, and before it can fall in on TV, I can just hear the roar outside. I’ll never forget that.
“It’s crazy to be sitting up here now after watching him do his champion’s toast and hoping that I’m there one day, and I am.”
It’s by nature that people are usually enamored with the younger winners on tour. A small part of this is the Tiger-effect, which is a younger golfer who dominates the sport at such a young age. Or like a phenom in any other sport like Bryce Harper in baseball and LeBron James in basketball.
The larger part of this is the need for competition in the sport. It’s great to see a guy score low every single time he plays, but that gets boring after a while. What makes things really interesting is the dynamic of two guys who are relatively the same age, battling it out on the course going stroke for stroke.
Having young guys under 30 (or close to that number) battle it out with lengthy tee-shots or smooth putts will always excite the masses. For example, the Masters ratings in 2015 sky-rocketed with the emergence of Spieth. He was also playing against guys like McIlroy and Rickie Fowler who were in contention that same week.
In the last two years Spieth, Johnson, Thomas, Koepka, and Fowler have dominated the Tour. It’s a sign that the game is moving in the right direction, at least it seems that way for Thomas:
“I think that kind of shows, you know, where the game is right now, where all of us are. I mean, we obviously all want to win. We want to beat the other person.
But if we can’t win, we at least want to enjoy it with our friends. I think that we’ll all be able to enjoy this together, and I know it’s going to make them more hungry, just like it did me, for Jordan at the British, or whatever you want to say.”