“I’ve never in my tenure seen so much buzz and interest about rookies and young players creating exciting performances.”PGA Tour Commissioner
– Tim Finchem, end of 2010
The PGA Tour is getting younger. This isn’t something that happened overnight but is something that has been slowly changing the tour landscape over the last twenty years.
So what happened twenty years ago? …Tiger Woods happened, but, much has already been written about Tiger’s epic and trailblazing career along with the correlating increases in tournament purses, tv money, player earnings, longer courses, etc. that his dominance brought to the game.
The development and emergence of younger players has taken the tour to a new level, one that thrives with or without The Big Cat. The first young gun that came on the scene post-Tiger was Sergio Garcia, who as a 19-year old kid was prancing down fairways at Medinah in the 1999 PGA Championship chasing Tiger. Eventually, Tiger held off Garcia, but this duel nonetheless started one of, if not the most dominant era of golf.
By the end of 2000, Tiger had defended his PGA Championship and was a few months away from completing the Tiger Slam. If you take a look at what the top 50 in the world looked like then, you’ll see an average age of 34.3, with 12 players in their 20’s, and one of them was under 25 years old (Sergio Garcia).
Fast forward five years later and the tour actually got older. At the end of 2005, the average age of top 50 in the world was 35.5. Only seven players in there 20’s and Garcia was still the lone member under 25 years old in the top 50.
Over the next five years, Tiger Woods won four majors, including the U.S. Open on one leg, but also missed significant amounts of time on tour due to injuries and that Thanksgiving 2009 incident. During that time, several up and comers including Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler started winning tournaments and grabbing the attention of fans and sponsors alike.
At the end of the 2010 season, the average age of the top 50 players in world dropped to 32.06. Nearly three years younger than top 50 at the end of 2005. Now there were 20 players under the age of 30 in that group and five under 25! Sergio finally older than 25 was replaced in the top 25 by five guys.
In the last few years, players like Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson have joined the young guns by winning a lot and raising the bar. Actually they’ve lowered the age bar. Take a look at the current top 50 in the world at the end of 2016. The average age stayed relatively flat at 32.18, a group of 18 guys were under 30 but seven are under the age of 25 signifying that the best players in the world are getting younger.
Not only are the best players in the world getting younger, but they are getting better! The data from the same years but looking at just the top 25 players is more of the same.
TOP 25 OWGR 2000 Average Age: 32.84 ; Under 30: 8 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2005 Average Age: 35.76 ; Under 30: 3 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2010 Average Age: 34.20 ; Under 30: 7 ; Under 25: 1
TOP 25 OWGR 2016 Average Age: 31.48 ; Under 30: 12 ; Under 25: 4
Look at how the average drops over four years since 2005! Almost, half of the best 25 golfers in world are in their roaring twenties. Four of them are younger than 25 led by 23 year old Spieth who already has a couple majors. Tim Finchem thought there was excitement in 2010 around the youth on tour. As he enjoys retirement, he has to be beyond excited and overjoyed with the current crop of young guns and youth on tour.