When the opening pairings for the 2014 US Open were announced on Friday, there was plenty of the usual fanfare, as past champions, reigning major winners and other big-name players found themselves matched for Thursday and Friday’s rounds.
While certain pairings, like the one featuring Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose as the winners of 2013′s Open Championship and US Open, were preordained, the USGA made what could be the biggest splash of the day by grouping together three of the game’s youngest stars.
In something of an unconventional “past, present, and future” setup, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama will begin their quest to conquer Pinehurst No. 2 at 8:13 A.M. Eastern on the 10th hole.
At 25, Fowler is in the rare position of being the elder statesman of the trio. In his sixth year as a pro, Fowler has long been a fan favorite, but his success hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations. Still, his game has occasionally shown flashes of greatness that still justify the following, including his tie for 10th at Merion last year and a top-five showing at this year’s Masters.
22-year-old Matsuyama could easily be one of the next great young stars, winning last week’s Memorial Tournament in a playoff over veteran Kevin Na. After dominating in Japan, he’s proved his mettle in major championships and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he were to win at least once more in 2014.
Then, of course, there’s Spieth. No longer facing any concerns over a “sophomore slump,” Spieth’s focus is now simply on winning as much as possible, and cementing his place as one of the best players in the world. It’s funny to think about it, but there’s not much that Spieth hasn’t done at 20 besides win a major yet.
Most of all, though, if the USGA is truly concerned with growing the game, this group is tailor-made for young viewers. Junior players who may wonder if golf is really their sport are going to be watching three guys who reached the pinnacle of their sport before they could even buy a beer.
If that isn’t the best way you can think of to get more people interested in playing, I don’t know what is.