by Jeff Skinner
Rory McIlroy’s win at The Quail Hollow Championship and Ryo Ishikawa’s twelve under par 58 have re-ignited the discussion about a youth movement taking place in golf. Rory turns 21 today and Ryo is only eighteen and they represent the youngest of the world’s elite golfers. There is always talk about who is the “next Tiger” or which young players can begin to carry some of the load on the tour. Both McIlroy and Ishikawa have been compared to Tiger Woods at one time or another. Anthony Kim (25) and Camilo Villegas (28) each had two wins each in 2008 and appeared ready to become the poster boys for the youth movement on the PGA Tour. After a winless 2009 they both have captured a win this year and may be ready to become tour stalwarts.
Is there a youth movement afoot on tour? Is this the year that the twenty-something’s take over from the older guys? So far this season golfers under thirty have won seven times on tour and golfers over thirty nine have garnered seven wins also. Ernie Els and Jim Furyk, both over thirty nine, have won twice each this year. So it appears to be fairly even at the opposite ends of the age spectrum but a breakdown of the golfers in their thirties sways the tally to the younger side. Golfers under thirty five total eleven wins on tour this year while the over thirty five set have only eight wins, with four coming from Els and Furyk. So it may seem that there could be a minor move being made by the younger kids on tour.
It used to be common thought that golfers hit their prime in their mid thirties but with many golfers leaving college early to turn pro and many like Ishikawa turning pro in their teens maybe the “prime” of a pro golfer is moving more towards thirty rather than towards forty. Either way there are many young golfers that are ready to stake their claim on the PGA tour like Rickie Fowler who already has four top ten finishes this year.
There just may be a substitute for experience. On the PGA Tour experience can help a good player win but there really is no substitute for skill and these youngsters have major skills and a go for broke, gambling attitude much like that of Phil Mickelson. Kim, Fowler, Ishikawa, Villegas, Dustin Johnson and Hunter Mahan are the class of the group of young golfers that could take the tour to new, younger levels this season. It’ll be fun watching the kids try to supplant the older guys. They certainly aren’t going to go down without a fight.