Golf has had a remarkable run of inspired greatness over the past few years. Technically, it started in 2013. Tiger Woods was the Player of the Year, winning five times, including The Players and two World Golf Championships events.
We know what has happened to Tiger since he last became number one in the world. As for those who have followed:
- Rory McIlroy won three in a row, including two majors, in 2014 to become the top-ranked player. For a period of roughly 40 weeks, he amassed 16 top 10s, 12 top 5s, 10 top 2s and six wins in 19 starts!
- Somehow Jordan Spieth followed Rory in 2015 and caught him for the top spot, winning six times in the span of a year, including two majors, 12 top 2s and 20 top 10s in 29 starts!
- Enter Jason Day who, from the middle of 2015 to the middle of 2016, racked up seven wins in 19 starts, including a major, The Players, WGC and two playoff events. He wrestled away No. 1.
- Dustin Johnson found his way and, in 30 tournaments starting with the 2016 Northern Trust, won six times, including a major and three WGCs. In that span, he had 21 top 10s and missed just two cuts.
For every undisputed No. 1 golfer in the world, we were only a couple of months away from another. We have recycled adjectives, hyperbole and articles on historical ranking with every meteoric rise to the top.
What has made this period in golf so great is that every big tournament for nearly five years has had an Alpha male – a player who demands a majority of the attention and action. It provides the ‘Player vs. The Field’ argument we all salivate over.
Golf is lacking that intimidating force for the first time in a while. Tiger is gone. McIlroy is publicly lamenting his own struggles. Spieth is winning but in inconsistent ways, with no top 10s in a major in five starts. Day is hurt and scarred, or maybe just scarred. DJ is absent – either literally or figuratively – this year.
As players make their way to England for The Open Championship, we are left without the driving force to cheer or jeer. The two favorites may be Spaniards: Jon Rahm, fresh off Irish dominance, and Sergio Garcia, who is testing the color endurance of the green jacket.
Maybe a new force will emerge (did anybody notice Hideki Matsuyama is second in the world?), or a familiar name will reclaim a dominant run. Golf is at its best with a runaway talent, pulling those in pursuit along for the ride to match that greatness.
Whose turn is it?
The Other Winner
Each week I offer up one player who, while not winning, took something big away from the previous week
Jamie Lovemark – It’s easy to label somebody a disappointment without knowing the full story. Lovemark was the Next Coming in golf a decade ago, and lived up to the hype. Fans forget he won the Web.com Tour money title his first full year as a pro. Then, his back betrayed him. The climb back from surgery has been slow.
I walked every hole with Lovemark on Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic. He chunked a 240-yard shot on the 12th hole while trying to reach the green. Hit it flush and I think he wins. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, yes.
For the second straight year, Lovemark will keep his card. He’s 84th in the world, his highest ranking ever. He looks and sounds like a man who is comfortable with where he is and where he expects to go. Something is building.