To many August 29th 1996 seemed a day like any other. Birds chirped, the sun shined and Bill Clinton most likely roamed the halls of the White House calling people “doll” and giving employees pats on the butt. But to the golf world, it was the day that marked the unleashing of the beast.
In ’96, the one and only Tiger Woods turned pro and took the PGA by storm. After signing what at the time was the biggest golf endorsement ever with Nike and Titleist and becoming the tour’s Rookie of the Year, he took the ’97 Masters to become the youngest champion in tournament history. I could go on and on about Tiger’s wins but I wont, because plain and simple he was and continues to be, the GOAT.
What’s important to recognize is the impact that Tiger had on the game. According to the NGF, in 1996 the total number of golfers in the US, topped out at 24.4 Million, and in 2006 reached a high of 29.8 Million. And from 1996 to 2014 we saw a drastic growth in High School golf athletes, growing 42,030 in size (NFSHSA). Are there other factors at play here that could have influenced this growth? Sure. Am I a statistician? No. Am I going to claim that Tiger’s electric play and unbelievable raw talent caused the revitalization of golf and a new love for the game from viewer’s young and old? You fucking bet.
But America, we have a problem. And it’s big.
Golf has started to decline. Interest has faltered and some courses have had to allow foot golf and other atrocities just to stay afloat. So what now? Who will save us? Who will come down from the heavens and bless us with a decade of immaculate play, cool new gear and ultimately have a public downfall due to sex addiction and painkillers? Well that’s what we are here to find out.
The PGA is chalk full of remarkable talents, winners, and for what feels like the first time, actual athletes (it’s not a John Daly world anymore). But who has what it takes to wake up today’s youth? Who can inspire the young and old to get out and play the game of games? Who can lead the charge for the future of this great sport? Below you will see the top five men with a shot at glory.
- PHIL MICKELSON
First of all no, it’s not Phil. And if you had your hopes up for him, you’re most likely well out of the age range for my target demographic. So head back to the Republican National Convention and the course out front of your house that you shoot 112 on during the weekends. Phil, who hasn’t won a tournament in 5 years, feels like the old dying breed of golfers hanging on for dear life. He’s not flashy, he’s not going to be in a hip add anytime soon and his style of play leaves a lot to be desired. But Phil breaks number 5 on the list because supposedly he bets like an absolute maniac, and I respect the hell out of that. (See here)
- RORY McILROY
Holy shit Rory is an absolute beast. The fact that this guy can crush a ball 436 yards (WATCH THIS) and is only 5’10”, 160 pounds is low key just a joke. He continues to be one of the best golfers in the world and has also been on the forefront of a new type of golfer, a truly athletic golfer. Rory is a monster in the weight room; he dedicates his life to the game on and off the green. The one problem is, he’s just kind of boring. We get it, you’re jacked, amazing, and sometimes can blow your top (watch). But what he has in skill he lacks in pizzazz. Just being good isn’t going get the kids back out on the course, Rory. So eat another PowerBar and maybe start live-gramming your rounds on your finsta, or whatever the hell kids do these days.
- DUSTIN JOHNSON
Tall. Dark. Handsome. DJ. This guy is not only one of the best golfers of the past decade, but he also had the balls to date and subsequently marry Wayne Gretzky’s daughter. I had the pleasure of seeing Johnson play in the 2016 Pebble Beach Pro Am, and he did not disappoint. The guy carries himself with the poise and confidence of a lion, and straight up wins. He’s honestly a machine. With 17 PGA tour victories since turning Pro in 2007 and an Official World Golf Ranking of #1, DJ is on track to be one of the best of all time. But let’s be real, judging by his Instagram Johnson is committed to 3 things, his wife, his kids and golf. There will be no controversy for him soon, no crazy stories, and no intense rivalries. Therefore he will continue to be great, but not the spark this sport needs.
- JORDAN SPIETH:
Hey Jordan, if you’re reading this, want to hang out? Considering some of your past hangs include Steph Curry and Obama I get it if I’m not up to snuff, but I will continue to hit your DM’s like a 14 year old messaging Nick Jonas on MySpace in 2008. At 24 years of age, with 11 PGA tour wins as well as a first place finish in the Masters and the US open, Spieth is one of the few men with a chance to come for Tiger as the four-legged animal that eats grass and stares at you with piercing eyes (goats, I’m talking about goats). But not only is Spieth a powerhouse on the course, he has proven to be one of the more marketable men in golf. Snatching up huge paydays from Under Armour, AT&T, and Rolex, the kid made just under 30 Million last year from endorsements alone. But even being #21 on the 100 highest paid athletes in the world doesn’t get this young gun the title of who’s going to save this sport.
#1 RICKY FOWLER:
Ricky is without a doubt the man we need to make golf cool again (MGCA is a registered trademark of the Low Upside and I will go to court with Trump if need be). While his play has not been GOAT level it has still earned him a #7 ranking in the world for 2018 and has won him four PGA tour events. But at the end of the day Ricky is what this sport should be, FUN. The guy plays the game with intensity and determination, but breaks the mold of boring old golf (watch). His swagger, his style, and his fun yet PG antics outside of the tour make him an all around winner. While he’s marketable to the older generation of golfers with brands like Mercedes and Quicken Loans backing him, he also draws the younger crowds, clearly shown by Red Bull’s backing of the young golfer. If Ricky can start racking up some wins, get a green jacket, and keep his energy flowing, there is absolutely no telling how high his ceiling is.