There is no doubt about it; golf’s long- time week to week favorite, Tiger Woods, just is not the same dominating force he once was. His well-documented struggles within the last few years have widened the field for his fellow competitors busting their asses every week to get a sniff of the winners circle. While every golf fan has their own opinion of the long time star, it is definitely a good thing for the golf world to have a leading man to draw patrons in and give them someone to rally behind. Tiger Woods is no longer this person and the PGA Tour needs a player like this.
Recently, Northern Irishman and former world number 1 Rory McIlroy made similar remarks stating, “It's almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player…I hope it’s me.” Clearly, it is no longer Tiger vs. the field and, as we’ve seen this year, the door is opening for younger players to get some wins. As a college student I really enjoy seeing this transition and rooting for the young 23 year olds to make a push on Sunday. This being said, I also agree with Rory that golf NEEDS a “face” and a “dominant player” to draw people in every week. His comments got me thinking and made me want to dig a little deeper to see who I would like to take over the Tour. Here are four of the guys (with a realistic chance) who I would love to see “stamp their authority” on the game within the upcoming years:
1. Rory McIlroy
Rory was dead right when he made these comments and who better than to step up than him? Obviously the 24 year old has already made quite a name for himself early in his career, winning 6 events since 2010 including the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship - both by 8 strokes. He was the second player behind Tiger to win a PGA Tour event before his 21st birthday and he seems to have the “it factor” that very few possess. McIlroy hit a rough stretch the last couple years and couldn’t seem to get it going the same way he was when he burst on Tour. Fortunately, he seems to be turning it around in 2014 with 2 Top 10 finishes within his first 5 events. He’s currently ranked 7 in the world but I think he’ll move his way up in the very near future.
2. Russell Henley
Since upgrading from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour in 2012 Russell Henley has shown flashes of pure dominance beginning at his Tour debut. In 2013 during his first event as a rookie in, Henley took home the Sony Open by 4 strokes with a score of -24 (256) - the second lowest score ever on the PGA Tour. He picked up his second career W this season at the Honda Classic earning his second invitation to The Masters. Success is nothing new for the former Georgia Bulldog as he was earned the Haskins Award in 2010 as the most outstanding player in college. He is 24 years young and has a bright road ahead if he continues to make strides in his game. I always find myself rooting for this kid and hope he continues to make a name for himself.
3. Patrick Reed
I don’t know if you heard but according to Patrick Reed himself, he is a Top 5 player in the world. No, you did not misread that and whether you agree with him or not, Patrick Reed publicly stated that he thought he was a Top 5 golfer in the world following his win this season at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. Currently ranked 22 in the world, Reed has 3 PGA Tour victories in 7 months making him 3rd on the money list early in the 2014 season. While some may think Reed is out of his tree for making those confident comments about himself, I don’t and I like it. It shows this kid has confidence at that’s exactly what you need to make a run for the top in this game. You can’t be the best unless you know you’re the best.
4. Jordan Speith
Jordan Speith has something on his side that everyone wishes they did; youth. At 20 years old, Speith earned 1 PGA Tour event since turning pro in 2012 and 13 top 10’s (including 4 second place finishes). He is currently ranked 13 in the world and always seems to be lingering around the leaders at some point during the tournament. This year will be a big year for Speith now that he has a full year of Tour experience under his belt. A year of experience will do wonders for a young kid’s confidence and mental game. It would be no surprise to me to see this guy become the face of the Tour one day. Watch out for Speith next week at The Master’s and for plenty of years to come.
Some other –less likely- possibilities:
In my mind, all of these guys have a legitimate chance of being the next face of the PGA Tour. As Rory said, someone needs to “stamp their authority” on the game and become a dominating figure. A win next week at Augusta would assuredly be a monumental first step in becoming that person for one of these four young guns. Go get ‘em boys.