This Week in Golf: What happened to the youth movement?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Since the Sony Open in early January, every tournament this year has been won by a player in their 30’s except for the WMO Phoenix Open (Hideki Matsuyama) and most of the players in contention each week have also been “veterans.” What’s up with that and what’s happened to the youth movement?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I think this question will seem quite odd by the end of the season.  I don’t believe there’s a trend with older guys surging, or a decline in the youth movement.  I’m sure the Big 3, 4, 5 or 6 (depending on the week) will win their fair share this year.  Meanwhile, I’m delighted to see Adam Scott return to past glory.  And watch out for Fred Couples at Augusta!

Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): This is simply a matter of statistics, not a trend, it’s bound to happen periodically. Youth movement will have their time, just watch what happens at Augusta. I’m pretty certain the under 30’s will appear and one of Day, Spieth or McIlroy will contend or win. No I haven’t forgotten about the other young gun Fowler nor the old guys: Adam Scott, Bubba and Mickelson’s past at the facility, I just know one of the aforementioned three are that much better. By the way, it looks like the USGA/R&A did Scott a big favour forcing him to change his putting technique.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think maybe the “geezers” have taken the threat of the youth movement personally and are out to prove that they do not yet belong on the senior circuit.  However, it does not surprise me that Scott, one of the longest players on the PGA Tour, was able to get it done at lengthy Doral.  It’s always a long-hitter that walks away from the Blue Monster victorious.  I can’t explain where all of the young guns have gone, but I expect they will be back.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): If you  look back over forty or fifty years, you’ll see that most top players had streaks – sometimes lasting a few weeks, sometimes longer but with the exception of Tiger Woods, who seemed to be in contention every time he teed it up, no other player – even Jack Nicklaus – was dominant all the time. The kids will have their shot again soon but maybe the best thing that happened was they lit a fire under a few of the players in their 30’s. Instead of a Big 3, now each week, especially in Majors and WGC events, there are 8-10 players that could be called favourites.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The young studs are just being cagey, saving it all for the Majors. Or, it may be that in the continental States, the tracks like Riviera and Doral have been pretty tough and require patience and experience. But old geezers like Scott are banging it out there 340+ so what’s the big deal about youth anyway?

Rory McIlroy self-destructed on Sunday at Doral at the same time Adam Scott righted his ship and reeled off six birdies in the last 13 holes. McIlroy couldn’t keep pace and lost a tournament he should have won. It brings to mind that the young Irishman has faded badly when pushed on several occasions of late while some of his biggest wins have been by wide margins. Is McIlroy just a front runner or can he slog in the mud too?

Loughry: Just a little rust for Rory is all, I don’t think he’ll lose much sleep over this. If it was a MAJOR that’s a different story. Trust me, he’s gearing up for Georgia.

Kaplan: I’m surprised that McIlroy faltered down the stretch.  Since his implosion on the back nine of the 2011 Masters, the Irishman has had outright 54-hole leads locked down.  It is still early in the season and he is working with a new putter grip, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.  But if this becomes a pattern, then we will have to reconsider how we view the 26-year-old.

Quinn: Google ‘What’s wrong with Rory?’ and you get stories dating back to 2012. He’s so physically powerful now that he’s reminiscent of Eldrick at his most buffed. And he’s showing flashes of that over-swing — in speed and force — that Woods fell into when his game lost its last hint of subtlety. Hope Rory doesn’t go that route and instead gets a bit of feel back into his game. Then he’ll not only run away from the field, but occasionally catch it too. I think he is good enough to be a mudder.

Deeks: Goodness, if we’d questioned the intestinal fortitude of Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus or Watson in their heydays, we would’ve been labelling them all kinds of negative things. And what about Bobby Jones… he lost 16 out of the 29 major tournaments he ever played in.  What a CHOKE!  I wouldn’t classify McIlroy as anything just yet, other than “a great player” at age 26.

Mumford: McIlroy just needs to lay off the workouts, drink more Guinness and chill. In all seriousness though, he seems to be pushing hard to get really fit, which doesn’t always translate into a better golf game (see David Duval) or it makes you more injury prone (see Tiger Woods). Plus he’s tinkering with grips and swings. He’s only 26, so there’s lots of time to see if Rory 2.0 will work but along with everything else, he can’t forget how to close. That would render all the hard work worthless.

The PGA Tour and LPGA announced a plan to form a “strategic alliance” to work together on some aspects of marketing, scheduling and media. Is this a first step towards a more formal merger and would that be a good idea?

Deeks: Hopefully this alliance is just that, an efficiency measure that may cut costs for both sides and, in particular, help out the LPGA.  I don’t see it as more than that, and don’t believe a formal merger (read: takeover by the PGA) would be in either side’s best interests.  One golf writer was suggesting this might lead to more “joint events”… gosh, I hope not.  Whatever they do off the course to help each other, great… but let’s keep the sexes separate on the course, save for one event during the silly season.

Kaplan: I don’t think this is leading to a more formal merger.  In reality, this alliance is just a way for the two circuits to not step on each other’s toes when it comes to television ratings and event scheduling.  Perhaps, it could lead to joint events down the road.  But, I don’t think a formal merger with the LPGA Tour would be very attractive to the PGA Tour.  The PGA Tour has international star power, major sponsorships, lucrative television deals, and deep resources.  What does the LPGA Tour have to offer in return?

Loughry: This is a good idea and will no doubt serve the LPGA Tour more than the PGA Tour. It would be nice to see one or more mixed events, and even better if they paired up by country to add some international appeal and assist with appeal for global broadcast rights. Will probably assist with them aligning better on schedule, events (namely the LPGA) should be in a different time zone to assist with getting better air/TV time, this would assist getting more eyeballs watching that Tour more regularly, and help grow the woman’s game. I’m not convinced this means PGA Woman’s Tour though.

Quinn: The LPGA Tour has gone global, but the Asian players are so dominant that it’s a tough sell in the States. That’s not going to change because of a marketing alliance. Hard to imagine how the PGA Tour will benefit from this arrangement, aside from the altruistic claim that it’s all about growing the game. For Finchem it’s all about growing the money. There’s been a lot of buzz about the possibility of developing ‘joint events.’ Don’t be waiting for Shanshan Feng to tee it up with Rickie Fowler. Think more like Symetra Sirens vs Mackenzie Tour Titans live on The Ocho.

Mumford: Every time Tim Finchem has entered into an agreement or alliance, it’s a pre-cursor to the PGA Tour taking over. Perhaps the LPGA needs the financial support of the men’s tour and if so, then that would be fine. I just hope it doesn’t mean more combined events. Both Tours need their identity and separate champions and they should still have that, whether they’re run out of one office or two.



The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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