Last week’s The Masters at Augusta National — arguably the greatest weekend in sports each and every year — came and went too quickly, but in a short four days, it crowned a first-time major champion in Patrick Reed and proved that American golf is absolutely fantastic right now.
For one, Tiger is back. Though he was never really in contention, it was nice to see him competing once again, especially for those of us who grew up watching Tiger dominate the rest of the field through the 2000s. His very presence at the tournament boosted TV ratings, and even his practice round Monday attracted a throng of spectators. Whether you love him or hate him, Tiger’s personal scandals and health issues seem to be behind him, and his resurgence is terrific for the game: Nobody else in the sport attracts the kind of attention that he does.
This year’s installment also marked the fourth straight major won by a young American. Brooks Koepka won the 2017 US Open, marking his first major victory. Jordan Spieth won at the Open Championship a month later, his third major victory and one that put him a step closer to the career grand slam. And Justin Thomas finished 2017 by winning his first career major at the PGA Championship. Including Patrick Reed, each of these golfers is under the age of thirty, and they have at least a decade of good golf ahead of them.
Though Thomas has only won a single major, he’s played well at several others over the last year, and his successes have powered him to the number two ranking worldwide; if he continues to play at the high level he demonstrated in 2017 and through the early stages of 2018, he will likely add more major championships to his total. And Spieth, who is actually a childhood friend of Thomas, showed again last weekend why he’s one of the best golfers in the world when he carded an 8-under in the final round, nearly mounting an incredible comeback victory. He always has a shot to win any tournament he enters, and at only 24 years old, he has plenty of time to pick up the last major victory he needs— the PGA Championship — and complete the elusive career grand slam.
While the dominance of those four guys might be enough to say that American golfers are indeed the best in the world, I’d be remiss not to mention Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, two other young Americans inside the top ten of the World Golf Rankings. Johnson, who has held the number one spot for over a year now and won the US Open in 2016, is one of the longest drivers on tour and incredibly fun to watch. Fowler, at number seven, constantly hangs around in the final round and, though he’s never won a major, seems closer than ever to finally finishing a weekend on top.
Americans keep winning tournaments, and because they’re so young, the success will likely continue for at least a decade. The Thomas-Spieth friendship/rivalry will continue to play out. Tiger is back, and though he’s hardly young anymore, he’s sparked greater interest in and passion for the game. All told, American golf is in a really great place right now, and it will be incredibly fun to watch in the years to come.
Contact Andrew Ziperski at ajzip ‘at’ stanford.edu