Last weekend, the drama that was Webb Simpson and his wife watching the U.S. Open on a television monitor was not must see TV. After Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell choked and Simpson walked away with his first major championship there was little drama to relive. It represented the growing golf problem of a playing field that lacks stars and personality.
Tiger Woods has been the PGA since winning the Masters in 1997. He provided all the drama needed for a sport that has never quite found its place in a television world that needs more than just scenery. Tiger’s battles with Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, and the field of golfers, were enough reason to tune into any tournament that saw him on top of the leaderboard. When Tiger lost his dominance, golf lost its identity, just as cycling has without Lance Armstrong.
Woods last won a PGA major in 2008 with Padraig Harrington winning the final two in that year. Since 2008, the following 15 golfers have won a major: Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Mr. Webb Simpson. Looking at this list, is the future of gold among them?
The list of the past 15 major winners holds golf’s problem of too much parody, but does it hold gold’s solution? Phil Mickelson was always number two in the world behind Tiger, but has not risen in Tiger’s absence. Lefty appears to be on the downward slope of his career. Rory McIlroy is supposed to have the skill of Woods, but has yet to prove that he has the stamina on the golf course. Bubba Watson has the personality to sustain the sport, but his unorthodox style may not lead to consistent success.
The PGA suddenly has a lot of great players who are content to pass the championships around and relish in Tiger’s fall, but for the sport to be compelling a smaller handful needs to be at the top of the leaderboard on Sundays. For a fan base to get to know these golfers, a few need to rise to the top. The dominance at the top is what makes tennis compelling at the end. It is golf’s only hope, well except for a Tiger resurgence.