In what was once thought to be a dying sport across the younger generation, the recent influx of young success in the PGA has started to turn heads—and perhaps bring more people out on the course.
Jordan Spieth, 22, and Jason Day, 27, boasted two of the best seasons professional golf has ever seen. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy, 26, still sits atop the world rankings despite his absence from The Open Championship this year.
While McIlroy nursed his ruptured ankle ligament at his home in Florida the weekend of The Open, he likely contributed to the 3.1 million viewers per minute that tuned into the live action from St. Andrews despite the weather delays.
And who could blame those viewers? A storyline worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster was brewing. A college-aged kid from Texas, fresh off of two consecutive major victories, was vying for another colossal win on golf’s greatest stage at the birthplace of the sport.
Amateur golfers, furthermore, like Jordan Neibrugge, Ollie Schniederjans and Paul Dunne all made noise at the tournament, all finishing in the top-30 while under the age of 22.
Weeks before The Open at St. Andrews, 11.2 million viewers tuned into the US Open at Chambers Bay to watch one of the most dramatic finishes to a major tournament in recent memory. This was a tournament where Spieth reigned victorious, while both Day and McIlroy finished tied for ninth.
Even smaller events like the RBC Canadian Open saw their best TV ratings of all time—an event that Jason Day went on to win.
McIlroy, Spieth and Day have assumed the role of a modern day “Big Three” in golf, which has put an intriguing new spin on the game that has boosted popularity since Tiger Woods’ falling out.
The regime change in golf has even taken to the airwaves of virtual golf. With EA’s July release of RoryMcIlroy PGA Tour for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Tiger Woods’ reign as the cover boy for the yearly EA Sports golf video game has come to an end.
In the year 2015 alone, Spieth has finished first five times while Day has done so four times. Spieth has recorded 15 top 10 finishes in 2015 while Day has recorded 10.
Day and Spieth sit atop FedEx Cup standings, which are essentially the PGA Tour playoffs. Meanwhile, Day has shown no signs of slowing down, capturing yet another victory by a landslide six strokes last weekend at The Barclays in Edison, N.J.
Following this year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Jordan Spieth leapfrogged McIlory for a short-lived stay at the top of the world rankings. McIlroy reclaimed the spot this past week, but perhaps not for long.
While Day and Spieth eye McIlroy’s number one world ranking, McIlroy’s status will inevitably come to an end if their successes continue.
Older golf fans will reminisce about the fight for supremacy between Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Fans from a younger generation than that might recall the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.
Young fans from today’s generation may go on to remember the surprising explosion of younger golfers atop the world rankings by the likes of McIlroy, Spieth and Day.
But considering the state of the game today, perhaps it’s surprising that golf is still able to claim so many fans. The stereotype of golf being a sport for dominated by older generations is on hold—at least for now.