Jason Day's decisive and emotional victory in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last Sunday brought to a resounding close one of the most compelling and dynamic championship seasons in history.
With the extraordinary prodigy Jordan Spieth as his playing partner the final day, and with the grand Lake Michigan waterfront course framing every shot, Day played both confidently and flawlessly on his way to an all-time major scoring record of 20 under par.
Day's victory Sunday, and Spieth's victory in the Masters and U.S. Open this year (plus a fourth-place finish in the British Open and a second in the PGA) clearly signal the transition of the game from the Tiger-and-Phil era to the next generation of greats.
Woods missed the cut in a third straight major and is struggling to play tour level golf. Mickelson played okay but never threatened. At the turn of the century, Woods played the best golf ever played and his 14 major championships are second only to Jack Nicklaus. But his count will end there. Mickelson was the most exciting player ever, daring and aggressive and always in Woods' shadow. It's remarkable that he never made No. 1 in the world.
But their time has come—and gone.
It's abundantly clear that Spieth, Day, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are the game's young guns and they are blasting their way to the top.
"I think golf is in a very healthy stage right now," said Day after his PGA triumph. "I felt like a few years ago, three to five years ago, it was kind of struggling a little bit with the identity of who was really going to be that No. 1 player in the world, who was going to be the next best thing.
"Then Rory came out and was really dominating, but there was no one kind of challenging him for that role. For young guys like myself and Jordan, and Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama, a lot of guys are starting to play better golf and starting to challenge. It's going to be a lot of fun over the next five to 10 years."
(It was a pretty good championship for Mercedes-Benz as well. The car sponsor of the PGA Championship provided Mercedes autos and Maybachs, which you can read about in the October Cigar Aficionado, to some of its VIP guests at Whistling Straits. The company was also the official auto of the Masters.)
Golf is a sentimental game and there always comes a time to say goodbye to the superstars. It took well over a decade for Arnie's Army to finally surrender and support Jack Nicklaus and his unparalleled achievements in the game. And remember that Gary Player and Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd were part of that golden era of the game.
Then Jack eventually gave way to Tom Watson and Johnny Miller and Greg Norman and Nick Faldo. Mickelson made his presence known in the early ‘90s and Woods rocketed onto the scene with two wins in his rookie season in the fall of 1996, then his 1997 Masters victory.
But now we say goodbye to Tiger and Phil and hello to Jordan and Jason. What a season these young men have given us, what a future they have, what a future there is for the game. Somebody holler "Fore," because these guys are playing through.