This year has seen each of the four major championships (and a slightly contentious fifth) go to players outside the group we know of as the modern ‘Big Three’. It may be time to consider whether the current field have blown this idea apart – or was it ever a ‘thing’ in the first place.
If it is not premature to describe the current golfing landscape as the ‘post-Woods’ era then it may be reasonable to suggest that the triumvirate of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy being heralded in such a manner is borne out of the media’s lust for a storyline to jettison the game to forefront of the public’s imagination.
It’s unlikely any of the three would believe they have the tools to emulate what Tiger has achieved in his 20 years as a professional and the possibility of any golfer in the current global field suddenly going on a run that would mark him as the next big solo star on tour is, while not impossible, a rather miniscule one.
So what do you do when you don’t have a Tiger? Well, one option is that you create the modern-day equivalent of a rivalry that enthralled the golfing world in the 1960s – that being the famous trio of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
We are, of course, very quick to see the next up and coming player – or group of players – as having the ability to emulate some of the greats of our golfing past. When the original ‘Big Three’ were first tagged, in the mid-1960s, they had amassed a total of 15 majors between them – 7 for Palmer, 4 for Nicklaus and 4 for Player; the current crop have achieved just 7.
That is not to say that the performances of the men at the top of our game have not been dominating over the years. Their major wins have proved them to be at the top of their profession and, quite timely for this piece, we all watched yesterday as McIlroy scythed through the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship to win by two strokes - all from a position in the tournament where he was +4 after 3. Both Day and Spieth – though without a major this year – also have PGA Tour wins under their belts in 2016.
It is obvious from the varied winners we see every week on tour that any number of golfers can get it done on any given Sunday. The last five majors have been won by first time winners and who would bet against that trend continuing at Augusta in April? In many sports unpredictability can be seen as a solid draw for fans. Football leagues, for example, can be derided as boring if they are dominated by one or two teams every single season. There is an absolute wealth of talent in today’s game and more than a few men who can easily bridge that gap from solid professional to multiple major winner over the next few years.
Dustin Johnson is a fine case in point. Who has impressed more than the big American in this golfing year? Henrik Stenson too. Not only is he one of the most consistent on Tour, but ‘The Iceman’ produced a scintillating display at The Open and played a leading role in one of the finest golfing duels in modern golfing history as he battled it out with Phil Mickelson for the Claret Jug. Oh, and remember when Rickie Fowler was going to be the man to make it a ‘Big Four’?
Golf has many things to be excited by, and proud of, without the media needing to artificially create angles or headlines. Stories will always write themselves. The trio of Day, Spieth and McIlroy will continue to set the golfing world alight with each passing year but they are likely to do so with the help of numerous other golfing superstars.
And we, the viewing public, will emerge as clear winners.