Older Players on the PGA Tour Are Looking Over Their Shoulders

Ad Blocker Detected

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

Thomas, a former world No. 1, praised the growing accomplishments of this younger set even though the competition has helped push his current world ranking to seventh.

“I’ve played some pretty damn good golf, but if you’re not winning tournaments now, you’re getting lapped,” Thomas said. “That’s just the way it is, which just goes to show the level of golf being played.

“But the jealous side of me wants that to be me.”

It is a reasonable expectation that youth will continue to have an impact heading into the four golf majors contested from April through July. While the truism is that experience matters greatly at the Masters, it is also worth remembering that Will Zalatoris, 25, finished second at last year’s Masters. Xander Schauffele, 28 and ranked ninth (one behind McIlroy), played in the final group on the last day of that Masters with eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama.

At this year’s U.S. Open, Rahm, 27, is the defending champion. Scheffler, Schauffele and Morikawa were all in the top 10 last year, as were Daniel Berger, 28, and Guido Migliozzi of Italy, who is, of course, just 25. At last year’s P.G.A. Championship, Scheffler, Zalatoris and Morikawa were among the top 10 finishers; Morikawa is the reigning British Open champion. Oh, yes, at that event a year ago, Spieth was second and Rahm was third.

There are a handful of theories to explain this youthful surge, and most center on the heightened professionalism that has become commonplace even in competitions for top golfers in their late teens or early 20s. That has in turn raised the caliber of golf at the American collegiate level, where rosters are also now frequently dotted with elite players from around the world.

And since every conversation about modern golf must have a tie to Woods, there is also a belief that more agile and finely honed athletes have been flocking to golf for more than 20 years — a tribute to Woods’s effect on sports worldwide.

Put it all together and those graduating from pro golf’s chief minor league, the Korn Ferry Tour, seem less intimidated by the big leagues and more ready to win, or at least contend, right away.