That’s a Bull Durham reference. I’ll just assume I lost everyone. It was quite a Sunday for the new wave of golf phenoms. It started in Japan where Ryo Ishikawa shot a 58. It’s the lowest score ever shot on a major world Tour, and when you add it to the fact that Ishikawa is only 18, and probably the most famous athlete in Japan, it becomes a very big deal. You’ll hear detractors say it was on a short (~6500 yard) par 70 course, and the feat of 12-under isn’t terribly that impressive, but 58 is 58. They’ve been playing plenty of par 70s on the PGA for years, and no one ever bothered to go around in 58. I’d take 58 at putt-putt. Perhaps more importantly, it gets Ishikawa back on track. He hadn’t had the results he wanted this year, especially in the States, and a 58 is always a nice way to kick-start things. I like to shoot 58 on the front, and then scramble to try to break 100.
The other prodigy who had been battling his game a bit, and in this case a balky back, is Rory McIlroy. McIlroy, already a winner in Europe, had been struggling to back up his 2009 campaign where he dazzled in the Major Championships. Moving his schedule stateside hadn’t produced the results until this weekend at Quail Hollow, where he lapped the field with 66-62. The 62 on Sunday, which was a course record, could easily be argued as the more impressive round compared to Ishikawa’s 58. Quail Hollow is a course that people say could host a major. You don’t shoot 62s at majors, and you certainly don’t do it on Sunday. His flurry of birdies and remarkable shot making down the stretch was an impressive sight. He’s already one of Europe’s most popular players, and now he’ll find himself square in the American spotlight as well. His win, at 20, made him the youngest victor since Tiger Woods 14 years ago.
And, speaking of Tiger, I think we might hear a lot about the “new generation” in coming weeks. These two rounds and wins by Ishikawa and McIlroy are just what the media needs to feed this storyline. Throw in the solid play of Anthony Kim and Ricky Fowler, and suddenly the Tour is going to be overrun by twenty-something rivals for Tiger. This is what they want you to think. Golf is younger, more competitive, and as trendy as ever. Throw in a little Tiger drama, and its a dream scenario. Oh no, Tiger shoots 79, Rory wins, is he about to be passed like he’s standing still? Probably not. We’ve been waiting for the next Tiger for quite a while now.
I think there was 35 years between Jack’s first major and Tiger’s. So, sometimes it takes a while. All these guys may end up being fine players, and one of them could eventually dethrone Tiger, but the chances of that, or of them even having a Phil Mickelson type career are pretty slim. We’ll have to wait and see. Anthony Kim won this same event two years ago, received many of the same accolades, and while he’s still on the rise, he also suffered a winless 2009 campaign. Golf is extremely hard. McIlroy played out of his mind for two days. Long way to go.