OK, who had Phil Mickelson, Grame McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer on your predicted list of major golf tournament winners for 2010?
Didn’t think so.
Who had even heard of Oosthuizen or Kaymer before this summer?
Post Masters, we’ve seen before our eyes how professional golf has completely changed perspective, from major tournament to major.
We’re going to have to look at golf from a completely different viewpoint — which means that Tiger or Phil or Ernie or V.J. may never be in an automatic list of top favorites for any given major. No one may dominate golf again like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods at their peak.
We’re going to have to get out of the mindset that professional golf is only worth watching when Tiger (and Phil to an extent) are playing well. The television ratings suffer bigtime when Tiger Woods in not a factor in a tournament.
But it’s not just Tiger’s personal issues.
The paradigm has changed in golf.
Examine the clues:
The four winners of major tournaments this year are from the United States (Mickelson), Ireland (McDowell), South Africa (Oosthuizen) and German (Kaymer).
Four of the U.S. golfers who have clinched one of the eight automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team will be first-timers: Matt Kuchar, Jeff Overton, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan. Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan will make their second appearance. Only Mickelson and Jim Furyk have been on more than one Ryder Cup teams.
Golf has gone global and it’s gone young.
And the rich bounty of global deposits are almost mind-boggling, which is muddling the focus of how many of us are used to looking at golf.
Even if Woods regains his "A" game and Phil is playing well, each will have a fight on his hands any given week just to finish in the top 10.
Never in the history of golf have there been so many golfers capable of ripping it so far, being so physically fit and having such a delicate touch around the greens as the seemingly swarms of golfers showing up on the leaderboards nowadays. Never have so many top players been from so many different countries. The European Tour is no longer the minor league.
Any given tournament, there are dozens of golfers who are capable of going with Tiger head-to-head, drive-for-drive, putt-for-putt and beating him. Most of those are 20-somethings and fearless and good. Tiger is 35. He’s now considered an old man in this game. He’s going to have to prove he’s not past his prime.
"Just as we identify and focus on one of these young guns, two others seem to pop up," said commentator Jim Nance.
Adding to the mix is Bryce Molder’s generation of golfers (one of the best groups of collegiate golfers ever who turned pro around the turn of the century) are now mature golfers who have figured out how to play — and score and win — on tour.
And we’re just now seeing the first trickles of the really good Chinese golfers — representing a country in which golf is blossoming bigtime.
Bottom line: Four different winners in the four majors from four different countries may be the norm rather than anomaly.
We’ll likely see fewer multiple winners on tour. A top-10 finish is to be cherished.
Former Conway golfer Bryce Molder finished in a tie for 12 in the PGA Championship and was in the mix to challenge for the title most of the weekend. By the new paradigm, that’s a heck of a job.
Any given weekend, there are 40 golfers (maybe more) capable of winning a tournament — even when Tiger and Phil and Ernie are playing well. We probably are going to see more crazy Sundays particularly like we just saw in the U.S. Open or PGA. We’re going to see a lot of tournaments where 8 to 10 (or more) golfers are within two or three shots of the lead with six strokes to play.
So many have enjoyed watching Tiger play golf because he had extraordinary game. He could do things in a consistent manner we’ve never seen before.
Now, everybody is good. Most everybody has game.
That’s fun and refreshing to watch — in a different way.
And even looking at things from a wide-angle perspective, things still could get blurred.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)