Golf’s outlook after Tiger Woods bleak

Former world golf champion Tiger Woods. PHOTO | AFP | NMG
Former world golf champion Tiger Woods. PHOTO | AFP | NMG 

Living in the post Tiger Woods golf era has been very depressing for many golf fans; you see, Woods was the engine that powered golf for a long time. But since his last Major victory in 2008 and his continued downfall, recently capped by a DUI arrest, Woods has continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

But this article is not about Tiger Woods, it is about the open field he has left behind in the golfing world. With Woods out of the picture it has been open season on the PGA Tour with literally any of the 156 golfers teeing it up able to win, even at Major golf championships.

According to the Officials World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Dustin Johnson is the top ranked golfer and he has held this position for a total of 26 weeks now, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is second, Jordan Spieth is third, Ulsterman Rory McIlroy is fourth and Spain’s Sergio Garcia is fifth.

The rest of the OWGR top 10 is made up of Justin Thomas, Joh Rahm, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler. Of these players, Stenson has been on listed top 10 for the longest period, 209 weeks.

The entry of McIlroy and Spieth to top level golf excited golf pundits globally, and whilst both have performed tremendously well so far, none of them seems willing to fill the huge shoes left behind by Woods. Spieth won his third Major Championship at the 2017 Open Championship whilst McIlroy last Major wins were in 2014 when he captured both the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

On his part, Garcia captured his first Major in 2017, winning the Masters Tournament and exiting the long list of best golfers never to have won a major. Garcia has failed to win a major in 73 previous attempts! Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka who were long standing members of this never-won-a-major club, captured their first major this season with victories at the PGA Championship and US Open respectively.

Other good golfers who have come close but failed to clinch a major include Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood.

In 2016, all major winners were first time winners, they included Danny Willer (Masters), Dustin Johnson (US Open), Henrik Stenson (The Open) and Jimmy Walker (PGA). By the way, and briefly, Woods has 14 majors to his name and the 2008 US Open was his last victory; it has now been nine years since he won a golf major!

So who will fill the Wood’s shoes? In the early days of the game the likes of Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer held the game together through World War II and in the early 50s. Palmer is credited with getting the game televised and in the 1970s the rivalry between Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Gary Player created a huge TV audience.

Woods broke the racial barrier when he won the 1997 Masters at Augusta and his entry to golf had a huge impact to the game globally. His rivalry with Phil Michelson, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and others increased TV revenues, sponsorship and endorsements.

Golfers like Adam Scott were pitted to take over from Woods, but Scott is no longer young and he simply cant putt. McIlroy and Spieth are perhaps still maturing and only time will tell whether they too can mature into legends. Dustin Johnson continues to struggle with his short game and Rickie Fowler wins in fashion not golf.

Woods dominated golf for over a decade, he gave TV some of the best highlights, broke old and set new records and through it all cut the perfect figure of a legend — until that one fateful night. Who can follow in his footsteps?