Younger players following Tiger's lead to stardom on Tour

Younger players following Tiger’s lead to stardom on Tour

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.