The Thought Bubble-Naked Golf: Strip Down to the Truth
Strip…Strip down all the way. Strip away all the garbage. They say Tiger Woods is hurt…he isn’t hurt….he is done…he’s back. They say the golf ball goes too far…we need to change the rules, wait don’t change that one or that one, maybe this one? They say we need to speed up the game, it’s too slow. They say the game is unhealthy or maybe failing or wait is it completely fine? They seem to be saying a lot of things about the game of golf these days. But strip away all that crap, strip away all that noise, strip away all the discussion…until you are left with nothing, just naked golf. What do you see? What is really happening? I will tell you what’s happening…greatness, history and maybe the best golf EVER played!
I often argue in our commercial breaks, on the air and sometimes just in my own head that we need to be cognizant of the greatness of our era. Matt frequently talks about golf’s “Golden Age” the days of Nicklaus, Palmer, Casper, Player, Watson and so on. I am not a historian, especially not a golf one, but I do know this…I remember in my middle and high school days cherishing every moment I had to watch Michael Jordan play basketball. I lived in the Washington DC area so we had access to WGN, Chicago’s main station, on which, the Chicago Bulls games were exclusively shown. This meant if Jordan was playing, I was watching! At that time and at that age I wasn’t bogged down by family, responsibility or even a job. My “job” was to watch Jordan play and it was incredible and I knew, knew, I was watching history. I knew Michael Jordan was the best and was going to be the best of all time. My awareness of all of this improved the experience tenfold. While Matt may not be wrong, by any means, I do think there is room for debate. My contention is we are in the middle of the NEXT Golden Age or perhaps even THE Golden Age of golf and no one is talking about it or paying attention to it. We all have WGN on our TVs and instead of everyone saying “holy crap Michael Jordan is playing tonight, we got to get home and watch!” I feel like everyone is acting as if it’s just another rerun of NYPD Blue or something.
Of course, defining all of this is very difficult. What is a “Golden Age”, what qualifies as “legendary,” what makes a period in history a “great era”? For the sake of argument, I am going to make it simple. Let’s say it’s 15 or more Hall of Famers competing against each other at one time. I realize there are certainly plenty of potential counter-arguments against my “guidelines” but I think it’s a reasonable baseline for this discussion. It would be pretty hard to argue that a massive stock pile of Hall of Famers competing against each other was just plain old regular golf, right? If this is the benchmark of a Golden Age, I think I might surprise you.
There are 4 criteria to qualify for the World Golf Hall of Fame, but basically, you need to have 15 worldwide wins and/or 2 Majors (including the PLAYERS). Now, here is a list of players: Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace and Matt Kuchar. That’s a pretty impressive list of golfers, no? Those guys are the current top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings (as of March 2017). On that list alone I see 9 Hall of Famers (DJ, JDay, Rory, Henrik, Spieth, Scott, Rose, Watson and Mickelson-already actually HOFer). You could even make a solid argument for Sergio Garcia (30 wins/1 PLAYERS Champ/8 Ryder Cups and eventual Captain I am sure). Just think about that, right now as it stands, theoretically 10 of the top 20 players in the world are or very likely are going to be in the Hall of Fame. I am not even including Tiger Woods (sidelined for now), Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer and Jim Furyk, basically all shoe-ins which makes the number 14. Then you have the likes of Lee Westwood (42 wins) , Graeme McDowell (14 wins/1 Major) plus the various potential in the unproven talent like Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Thomas Pieters and Tony Finau. Let’s be conservative and say that of those 11 only 4 make the Hall of Fame (although I think realistically Westwood, Hideki, JThomas, Reed and Fowler will all make the cut eventually). That puts our number of future Hall of Famers playing golf right now at 18….18 Hall of Famers…playing golf right now…competing for Major Championships against each other!
All of this is conservative too, it really is, think about the Masters this year. Bernhard Langer could be in contention (Hall of Famer), Ernie Els could compete (Hall of Famer) and even Vijay Singh could find lightning in a bottle (Hall of Famer). I am not even counting guys like Steve Stricker (probably 1 Major win away from HOF) or Louis Oosthuizen (probably 1 Major win away from HOF). It is really not ridiculous at ALL for us to look back 30 years from now at the 4 Major Championships in 2017 and say there were 20 Hall of Famers battling it out or in contention against one another during a time “when giants roamed” as Matty likes to say. Of these 20 or so guys I have mentioned it’s not unrealistic to think we could have a pack of guys with 5 or more Majors come out of this generation, no? Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson all seem to seriously have a shot at cracking the 5 barrier. This is it people, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are playing against LeBron James and Kobe Bryant right now, in real life, all you have to do is turn on the golf this weekend and you can watch, it’s not highlights on YouTube or a story from your Grandpa…it’s now, it’s here, it’s happening!