We are now almost halfway through the wraparound 2014 PGA Tour season and Patrick Reed’s win at the WGC-Cadillac Championships just confirms the Tour is beginning to look, and feel, a lot younger than ever before.
Take a look at the FedExCup standings right now. Five of the Top Ten players on the list are in their twenties, Dustin Johnson (29), Patrick Reed (23), Harris English (24), Chris Kirk (28) and Webb Simpson (28). All of them already multiple winners on Tour too. Talents that are building in pedigree.
The last three World Golf Championships have also been won by players in their twenties. Starting with Dustin Johnson in the HSBC Champions, then Jason Day (26) at the Accenture Match Play and culminating with Reed at the Cadillac Championships.
Prowling just outside the Top Ten are Jordan Spieth (20), Jason Day and Russell Henley (24). Day’s record of Top Tens has him on-course with current greats Phil Mickelson (43), Tiger Woods (39) and Zach Johnson (38). Winning his second tour event can only boost his ego and Spieth’s prowess onto the scene has been equally mesmeric, getting himself into contention time and time again since winning for the first time as a nineteen year old last year.
Rounding out the Top Twenty are Gary Woodland (29) and Scott Stallings (28), both have two PGA Tour wins tucked in their locker. With Russell Knox (28) knocking at the door in 20th position it makes eleven of the Top Twenty under 30 and only Knox without a PGA victory to his name.
There are now no players in the Top Forty over 40 either. Only Vijay Singh (51), stubbornly clinging on in 41st, represents a disappearing generation.
So what does this mean for the likes of Mickelson, Woods or even majorless Lee Westwood (40)? It all boils down to fewer opportunities to win and those chances will become increasingly difficult to take. As more younger players win, there are plenty more who are encouraged to think they can follow.
And they’re fit too, fitter than ever. Right now Tiger Woods is older than anyone in the Top Forty. His early bath at the Honda Classic and then the struggles around the Blue Monster on Sunday beg the question of whether he’ll ever have a period of consistent fitness again with which to fight back against this tide of youth. And the same could be said for Mickelson, already suffering from arthritis and already deciding to miss tournaments to rest up his ailing body.
And we haven’t even mentioned the likes of former world number ones Rory McIlroy (24) or Martin Kaymer (29) or even the star-quality of Hideki Matsuyama (22), Ryo Ishikawa (22) and the host of Web.com graduates all ready to follow in their footsteps. Whilst McIlroy is looking dangerous once more, entering every tournament as favourite, Woods and Mickelson just haven’t made an appearance on a Sunday. Yet.
This all makes the first major of the year that much more tantalizing. The Masters Tournament doesn’t tend to favour the inexperienced, but with so many twenty-somethings lining up to take on the established order, Augusta National might not be able to contain them all. There’ll be a keen, and expecting, eye on how the likes of McIlroy, (Dustin) Johnson, Reed, English, Spieth and Day fare against the older order of (Zach) Johnson, Woods, Mickelson, Els and Kuchar come Masters Week.