KOHLER, US: With the 20-something trio of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and newly crowned PGA Champion Jason Day atop the world rankings, golf’s changing of the guard is complete.
The triumvirate has now won five of the past six majors—and they’re just part of a talented crop of young players that also includes Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler and 23-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama — winner of the Memorial this year.
“Our generation is strong. It has taken over now,” said Day, and there was no cause to argue the point after 39-year-old Tiger Woods — floundering all season—missed the cut at his third major in a row.
Nor was five-time major champion Phil Mickelson a factor. The 45-year-old can still wow a crowd with his scrambling birdies, but he hasn’t won a US PGA Tour title since 2013.
Today’s young stars are measuring themselves not against the game’s ageing names but against each other.
“Golf is very healthy,” Day said. “Rory came out and was really dominating as number one and now young guys like myself, Jordan, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsu¬yama are starting to challenge.
“I’m looking forward to the sheer competition of being able to fight against these guys each week because it’s going to be a lot of fun over the next five or 10 years,” said 27-year-old Day, who triumphed at Whistling Straits in epic fashion—his 20-under winning total the record for a major championship.
Spieth, 22, admitted there was sim¬ply nothing he could do to stop Day.
But with a runner-up finish three strokes adrift he ended McIlroy’s 55-week reign atop the world rankings.
McIlroy—who won the British Open and PGA Championship last year and at 26 has occupied the number one spot for a total of 93 weeks—left Whistling Straits with plenty of positives, his 17th-place finish offering reassurance that a ruptured ankle tendon won’t have a lingering effect on his career now that he’s returned to action.
“It’s exciting for golf right now,” said former US Open champion Justin Rose of England. “I think golf is in a great spot. Rory, Jordan obviously have been leading the way. Jason has been knocking on that Majors door for a long time…It’s just good for golf.”
Spieth has been the real revelation of 2015. He is the second-youngest player to reach number one—after Woods at 21 in 1997.
His performance in major championships was historic— his combined 54-under par over the four tournaments is a record.
Spieth’s march to victory at Augusta National earned the Masters its highest television ratings since 2011—a sign that the self-effacing yet fiercely competitive Texan can be the kind of draw golf needs as Woods’s star wanes.
“The game’s in good hands,” Mickelson said at Whistling Straits. “We’ve got a good quality group of guys that are great players but also great people.”