Since I’m too old for the circus, I skipped the Tiger
Woods-Phil Mickelson-Adam Scott grouping and decided to follow Andres Romero, left,
Anthony Kim and Ryuji Imada around the front nine of Torrey Pines on Thursday.
If Tiger-Phil-Adam were like a U2 concert in an arena, then Andres-Anthony-Ryuji were like Vampire Weekend in a theater.
The secret is definitely out, but you still feel like you’re seeing the next big
thing instead of the big big thing.
I wasn’t the only one either. While Bono and the Edge, I
mean Tiger and Phil, were followed by swarms of fans, the Romero-Kim-Imada
Show attracted a smaller but respectable audience. Not a surprise considering they’ve
all posted wins on Tour this year. This looked like one of the morning groups
that could produce an Open champion. (The other promising grouping of Jim
Furyk, Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi was more like John Cougar Mellencamp -- good music
but the hipsters stayed away).
Kim, 22, played with his brash power; Imada, the
old man of the group at 32, with his easy cool; Romero, 27, with his
magnetic personality, which causes his fans to shout exclamations in Spanish to
the Argentine. What makes Romero so much fun to watch is that he actually looks like
he’s enjoying himself out there. The guy even smiles on the course, which you
see so infrequently you might wonder if it was against the rules. (I’m such a Romero fan now that I’m now concerned I might be developing a man-crush.)
In the end, they all posted respectable scores. Romero looks
like a contender at even par, and Kim and Imada are both +3. But more
important, they showed that the game does have appealing young stars behind
Tiger. In Kim’s case, we may be seeing the first post-Tiger superstar, in that
he grew up idolizing Tiger, not Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus like so many of
his fellow competitors. So enjoy watching Tiger and Phil, but don’t forget
about the other guys too. Much of this game is about tradition and the past,
which is great, but the game has a future, too.
(Photo: Al Tielemans/SI)