Do the current generation of PGA Tour players have enough character to help grow the game?

Say what you like about the older generation of PGA Tour players who are now slowly making their exit from the main tour and onto the senior’s tour, but they have thoroughly entertained all of us over the last three decades. Simply put, their weekly participation in PGA Tour events will be sorely missed and sometimes, you’re left wondering if the current crop of younger players that are currently coming through the ranks have enough character and personality to keep people interested in the game?

Of course, they certainly have the skill, and the latest golf betting odds will show that as the top three picks for the Masters are all under thirty years old, and notably, all three have already been crowned major winners. Indeed, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, and Jordan Spieth share six majors between them, which is an incredible haul given how young they are. But will skill alone from these emerging players be enough to keep people interested in professional golf?

If we look at Phil Mickelson’s career, then perhaps we can find the answer. Yes, the 51-year-old hasn’t been short of silverware over his time as a professional and altogether, the American has won six majors over the course of his illustrious career, but when you think about Mickelson, you think about the style in which he won those trophies. There is, after all, a reason why he is called ‘Phil the Thrill’, given how many times he’s taken our breath away since the early nineties.

In fact, the Irish Times recently dedicated an entire piece to Mickelson’s jaw-dropping six-iron from the pine straw on the 13th hole during the 2010 Masters with the writer calling the article: ‘My favourite sporting moment: Phil Mickelson’s miracle shot at the 2010 Masters.’

That is, in a nutshell, what Mickelson’s legacy is about; flair and courage when the chances of success seemed slim. Try as you might, you can’t envision today’s players trying something like that, and instead, you imagine they would opt for the safe play before chipping out of the trees sideways to minimise the damage to their scorecard. This is symptomatic of the fact that money dictates the way players make their decisions with any mistake likely to cost them thousands of dollars in prize money. Indeed, eternal glory always comes second to topping up the bank account for most of today’s players. In this sense, we’re all going to be a little worse off as the cowboys of yesteryear are replaced with robots of today.

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Crucially, Mickelson isn’t the only great entertainer that is beginning to make way. We’ve also had Tiger Woods, who is in the twilight of his career, consistently pulling off the impossible and putting his legacy above anything else since he arrived on tour in the mid-nineties. Ernie Els was the same.

Indeed, the man that they call the ‘Big Easy’ never backed down from a challenge and always tried to win, regardless of how remote his chances were.

When all is said and done, it was all or nothing for these stalwarts who will now begin their second act on the senior’s tour. The jury still remains out on the players who will succeed them and whether we’re likely to be treated to the same level of showmanship.

 

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