PGA Tour Sees Young Talent Step Up At Augusta, But Can They Fill Upcoming Void?
With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both absent from weekend play at The Masters for the first time in 20 years, a host of players in their 20s, led by second-place finishers Jordan Spieth (20) and Jonas Blixt (29) "capably stepped into the void," according to Dave Shedloski of GOLF WORLD. Those players, which also include Rickie Fowler (25), Rory McIlroy (24) and Jason Day (26), were "charismatic and entertaining and played exceptionally." They all "made themselves at home at Augusta National" and gave the latest sign that a shadow had "crept closer on the horizon" for Woods and Mickelson. Day said, "There's kind of a changing of the guard. The older guys are not moving away -- they're still playing great golf -- but it seems like the younger guys are stepping up." Jim Furyk, a 21-year Tour member, said, "With missing Tiger here and some of the bigger names missing the cut, it let a lot of the younger guys shine" (GOLF WORLD, 4/21 issue). In Boston, Ron Borges writes the "important thing for the game’s future is Spieth was not the only young gun on the leaderboard" at The Masters. Spieth, Fowler, McIlroy, Day and Russell Henley were "putting themselves into a discussion golf does not seem to want: What happens once Tiger is no longer on the prowl?" What is "obvious is the game needs a new star even if there will never be another Tiger." Borges: "People like stars and, most of all, new stars." That is where Spieth, McIlroy and "players like them come in." It is "to them that the future of golf as a spectator sport now falls" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/15). But in Jacksonville, Gene Frenette writes the Tour needs an "infusion of young guns that can hold up under pressure and win on the game’s biggest stages." Golf has "plenty of good players capable of winning a PGA Tour event, but it’s the majors where star power is created" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/15).
STILL DEPENDENT ON TIGER: Columnist Kevin Blackistone noted Sunday's final round of The Masters drew its lowest rating since '93 for a non-Easter weekend, and said with Woods' absence, the tournament "went back to being a golf tournament watched mostly by golfers and not by the rest of America." Blackistone: "They've got to find a way to rejuvenate The Masters, and I don’t know if that personality is going to walk right through the door." The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola noted The Masters needs Woods, but ESPN's Bomani Jones said the PGA Tour "does not need Jordan Spieth or anybody else." Jones: "After Tiger Woods goes away, it's going to stick to being what they like it being -- the people who like it watch it and that's that" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/14). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said fans "don’t care at all" that Bubba Watson has now won two of the last three Masters, though he is a "charming story." Le Batard: "If Tiger had done the same thing -- two times in three years -- you know we all would have been watching. We wouldn't be complaining about no drama on the back nine. This is all about Tiger Woods, all of it, and this is even on a day where you had a contender who's 20-years-old" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 4/14).