When did this transformation start? Rory McIlroy laid the foundation for the process last year with his stellar play late in the season including two major championship victories. He rose to #1 in the World Golf Rankings, a spot he still holds despite his ankle injury which could sideline him for the remainder of the 2015 season.
Jordan Spieth caught everyone’s attention with his win at The Masters. Rickie Fowler proved that he could win a big one with his phenominal finish in May at The Players Championship. Spieth’s second major title at this summer’s U.S. Open put him in a class few 21-year olds have ever seen. Guys like Jason Day and Dustin Johnson keep knocking on the door of golf’s biggest prizes.
In the meantime, Woods continues to flounder after another comeback. His play has been so pitiful that fans have lost interest making it easy to migrate to golf’s five hotshots- McIlroy, Spieth, Fowler, Day and Johnson.
“When he took off his hat on the 18th green to shake hands with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen, he looked as close to broken as I've ever seen a truly great athlete look. He entered this event thinking he had a real chance to contend. He wasn't even close to making the cut,” said Kevin Van Falkenberg of ESPN.com observing Woods after missing the cut.
John Huggan, another golf writer said, “Right this minute, Tiger is not capable of winning major championships. Nor is he capable of winning a regular tour event. He is, in reality, a well-below average PGA Tour player.
“The numbers are instructive. So far in 2015, Tiger has hit 52.86 per cent of the fairways he has aimed at. That would make him the 194th most accurate driver (out of 199) on the PGA Tour. In ‘greens in regulation’, his percentage is 61.11, “good” enough for 190th spot. But the most egregious figure is his stroke average of 72.796. Only former Masters champion Mike Weir is worse. Little wonder then, that Woods is ranked the 241st best golfer on the planet,” concluded Huggan.
Enough of the negative.
Zach Johnson won the Open Championship and he is now a two-time major champion who solidified his position in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He is 39-years old and hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Johnson is too old to be considered a young gun, but not old enough to be looked at as an old veteran. He is Midwest through and through. Loaded with guts and determination, Johnson should be an inspiration to anyone who ever attempted to play the game.
Few golf fans were not rooting like crazy for Spieth to win the Open Championship and continue his quest for the elusive Grand Slam- winning all four majors in the same season. But, he failed and joined Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only players in the history of golf to win The Masters and the U.S. Open and lose the British Open by a single shot. That is an impressive club for Spieth to join.
Uncharacteristically, it was the putter that betrayed Spieth. He had five 3-putt greens in the third round and 4-putted the 8th hole in the final round. St. Andrews has fourteen double greens and players can find themselves with very lengthy putts, especially in windy conditions.
“My stroke was good. I had really good practice. On these practice greens you're not able to get a good feel for the touch. It's tough to get pace practice because they're so small, so I didn't have much of it this week, and I kind of had to go off my feels, when typically you've got enough room -- I did plenty of work on the golf course”, said Spieth.
“It's no excuse, but as far as right before the round getting a pace for that day and the conditions and how the greens are cut, it's tough. You have to kind of go with it after you have one long putt. That was the struggle for me in this tournament was what my -- I think my biggest advantage over anybody in the world is, and that's my first putt proximity, and that was -- I think on the lower half of the field this week, and it certainly cost me at least a couple shots,” Spieth concluded.
There are many impressive things about Spieth besides his abilities on the course. He speaks in a tongue well beyond his years. He has earned the respect of his peers and everyone in the game.
Jim “Bones” Mackay is Phil Mickelson’s caddy. When his final round with Lefty was completed, Bones went back to the 17th hole to watch Spieth finish.
"I just think the kid is special," Mackay said. "I think he's gifted between the ears. When I say gifted, I mean like Jack Nicklaus-gifted. Jordan is going to do amazing things because he's such a killer between the ears."
This is a special time for professional golf. Who would ever imagine that the Open Championship would provide such drama without McIlroy- the defending Open champ and top player in the world? This current cast of characters could be a legendary list in a couple of decades. Tiger who?