The day is coming — quickly, perhaps — when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson no longer dominate golf’s landscape.
Woods, 38, has played in just three PGA Tour events since the first of the year, finishing no better than a tie for 25th. He recently had surgery for a back injury, and it is uncertain when he will return.
And then there’s Mickelson, 43. He has never gone this deep into a season as a pro without a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. Mickelson did have a runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi against a strong field, but he has had health issues as well.
As Woods heals from surgery and Mickelson tries to regain his top form entering this week’s Players Championship, many golf fans are wondering who the game’s next star will be.
It could be Bubba Watson, who won his second Masters title in April, or a younger player like 20-year old Jordan Spieth.
Spieth has already won on the PGA Tour (last year’s John Deere Classic), and he has five top-10 finishes in 13 starts this season, including a tie for second at The Masters. He has climbed to No. 7 in the world rankings.
Spieth took two weeks off after The Masters, where he let a 2-shot lead in the final round slip away, but he hopes to build off that performance.
“I’m trying to really see it as a positive, really see it as something going forward that was good for me,” Spieth said. “Obviously it was a great experience, but not being able to pull it off could be great going forward because it is humbling to know that I had it in my hands and kind of let it slip in a sense.”
Spieth has impressed Kansas City golf legend Tom Watson.
“I like the way he’s played the game,” Watson said of Spieth. “He’s got a passion. …
“He makes me relive some of the memories that I had when I was his age playing the game out here.”
While there is a chance that Spieth will become golf’s next star, there is no guarantee that he will show it this week because of how tough the TPC Sawgrass course is.
“This course will chew you up and spit you out from year to year,” NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller said. “You never know. You’ve got to hit it good, you’ve got to be lucky and you’ve got to miss it in the right spots. I just think it’s a course that no one ever gets feeling really comfy out there.”