If you are a steady golf fan you surely share my opinion that 2014 is off to a slow start. We’re already at the end of April, and most of the tournaments have been won by guys we’ve hardly heard about prior. Sure, Bubba won the Masters again, but outside of him and Jason Day winning the Match Play, I am relatively unfamiliar with any of the other winners.
Matt Jones in Houston, yup, never heard much about him before. Jimmy Walker with two wins in 2014, I mean I have heard of him before, but I can’t say I really know much about him. Russell Henley, I watched him play on the Web.com tour, and it is great to see someone like him carry on that success to the PGA Tour but I really don’t know much about him. Same with Steven Bowditch. Kevin Stadler, without his famous Dad I am not sure I would know much about him as well. The PGA Tour is being taken over by unknowns, a parade of Mr. Nobody.
There is the argument that this is cyclical. That there was a lull from when Jack Nicklaus was dominant to when Tiger hit the scene. You could call this period basically 1985 to 1995. This period was not devoid of characters, as we had Seve, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart, and the tail end of the careers of Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. Only Tom Watson and Lee Trevino from this group even crack the top 20 of all-time winners on the PGA Tour. For all the hype that Greg Norman generated during his prolonged run at World Number One, he is tied with Davis Love III and a few others at 33rd for all-time wins on the PGA Tour.
This ten-year period 1985 to 1995 appears quite dry for PGA Tour winners. It may be that we are entering another cycle such as this. There are guys who can be contenders such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, but it is unlikely that they will dominate as Tiger has. Tiger has brought so much money to the game of golf that he has made it easy for guys to make a living winning a few tournaments, maybe even less than one per year, and have a good career. This has led to stagnation among the better players on the PGA Tour. Other than Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els there are no golfers in the top 50 from the current generation of golfers. I am going to dub this new period that we are entering now “The Mr. Nobody Years.”
It is not that I don’t like the current crop of winners on the PGA Tour. I watched an episode of “Inside the PGA Tour” hosted by Russell Henley, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. Actually a pretty down-to-earth guy. Still, it does seem that he will be very comfortable winning a tournament every couple of years and if he is lucky grab a major whilst he is at it. Mostly a middle of the road type player. It seems that any of the current crop of winners, Matt Jones, Matt Every, could easily be substituted in there for Russell.
The PGA Tour needs to do a better job helping us to get to know these guys, and in addition these guys need to remember that they are also on a stage. I am not saying they need to act like people they are not, but how about acting with some flair? Look a generation ago no farther than Chi Chi Rodriguez. After a birdie or towards the end after any long putt went in, we got a show. He’d swing his putter around like he was attacking a bull. As a young golfer, I watched this and it made me think what a great game golf was! Look at this guy having so much fun while he played the game. I became a fan and watched golf just to see him put on the show. I can remember watching Craig Stadler and waiting for the guy with the walrus mustache to miss a shot just to see his animated response. It was always an instant classic. It was great theater.
Miguel Angel Jimenez seems to understand this a bit. He has these crazy stretching routines then goes out to play smoking a cigar and being a great character. I think the PGA Tour needs more of this type of guy. One of the other two current guys I can call out are Boo Weekley. I think he could do much more, but he has the basis of a great character. Backwoods hunter with a thick accent who rides his driver down the fairway at the Ryder Cup. Same with Bubba Watson, the back-home golfer with the homemade swing that has never taken a lesson. I am hopeful as Boo and Bubba get a bit older they get deeper into their character and make the show as good as their golf games are.
Sadly, I think we are going to see less guys like Jimenez and more like Henley. Nice guys but lacking a character that draws people to watch the game. This will hurt the PGA Tour. Less people will tune in especially kids because there is not much to watch other than a robots wearing visors and giving a curt tip of the cap when a birdie goes in.
Photo credits: © Marco Garcia.