John Hopkins, golf writer for the Times Online says that we may have witnessed a watershed event this past weekend at the 2008 Masters:
We saw the future at the Masters yesterday and it looked good. Trevor Immelman, the third-round leader, Brandt Snedeker, who was two strokes behind, and Paul Casey, who trailed Immelman by four strokes, are all younger than Tiger Woods. What is more, they were three of the four men who were leading Woods after 54 holes of the year’s first major championship.
There is some historical significance in this. There has not been a major championship in recent memory in which so many of the leaders and so many of the men who have been ahead of Woods were younger than the world No 1. Usually Woods, who was born on December 30, 1975, is surrounded by rivals who are grizzled in golfing terms, men such as Woody Austin, who was 43 when he finished runner-up to Woods in the 2007 US PGA Championship.
In Woods’s 13 major championship victories, only four times has he been older than his closest challenger after 54 or 72 holes. Sergio García, who was born in 1980, finished one stroke behind Woods at the 1999 US PGA Championship, trailed the American by four strokes after three rounds of the 2002 US Open Championship and was one stroke behind Woods at the 2006 Open after 54 holes. Luke Donald, who was born in 1977, was level with Woods after 54 holes of the 2006 US PGA Championship.
Of course, mathematically, it’s only logical that as Tiger gets older, more of his competitors will be younger. But there was a time not too long ago when the more hysterical among the golf media were wondering if anyone would EVER appear to challenge the Great Striped One. It was nonsense, of course, and fueled by people who have no sense of history or perspective.
But Hopkins may be right about this: that there is now a core of young talent skilled enough—and aggressive enough—to pull major victories out from under Tiger. In addition to Immelman, Snedeker, Donald, and Casey, there also are Sean O’Hair, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and of course, last year’s Masters winner, Zach Johnson. I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out, but you get the point. The talent is out there, and they’re going to win sooner, rather than later.
Here’s a radical thought: Is it possible that Tiger doesn’t win ANY majors this year?