Younger players following Tiger's lead to stardom on Tour

Wednesday June 30th, 2010
Rickie Fowler already has five top 10s in his rookie season.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When Tiger Woods first came on the scene, he raised the bar for everyone and it was really hard for his contemporaries to change their mind-sets to match Tiger's level of competitiveness.

Growing up, most players of Tiger's generation dreamed of making the Tour and hopefully winning a major. Tiger dreamed about winning 19 of them.

I always said that Tiger would face his toughest challenges from the next generation, the ones who grew up watching Tiger win five or six events and a major or two every year. We're starting to see that now with the emergence of players like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Ryo Ishikawa and Jason Day. They're not the first of the baby boomers, they're the first of the Tiger boomers.

The best part of watching these players is that they're almost a throwback to an earlier era. Fowler's swing is his swing. McIlroy's swing is his swing. Same with Ishikawa and Day. They've separated themselves from some talented contemporaries because they haven't fallen victim to Copy Golfer-X Syndrome. You have to swing like yourself, because under pressure you only have yourself to rely on. Tiger might have been the standard for these players, but they didn't copy Tiger's swing. They've gone their own way, and that's why they know how to win.

It used to be easier to win events by having a 35-year-old brain and working out to get a 20-year-old body.

That's how someone like Vijay Singh remains an elite player well into his 40s. But now we're seeing 20-year-olds playing with 35-year-old brains. It used to be tougher for younger guys to get experience, but with that Tiger mind-set, they're coming right out of the gate expecting to contend.

Look at someone like 16-year-old Jordan Spieth. The experience he got in those four rounds at the Byron Nelson is probably worth a year of college golf. What makes these young players great is they're playing and competing at the highest levels as often and as early as they can.

They say age and guile usually beats youth and inexperience. But youth and guile? That's a pretty tough combination.

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