Golf's next rock star? There can only be one
Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer -- that's the list. Who's next?
In Jenkins at the Majors -- a great book, by the way -- Dan Jenkins writes the following about Tiger Woods:
"Tiger is the third rock star golf has known in the modern era, since the game exploded in popularity on TV and got helped along by the steroid golf ball, the nuclear shaft, and the Abrams tank for a clubhead.
"Arnold Palmer was the first, then came Jack Nicklaus, and now there's Tiger. And just in time, for without him this sport might have all the relevance of slalom kayaking."
Jenkins wrote that in 2007 after Woods won the PGA Championship over Woody Austin at Southern Hills.
I've thought about that passage a lot since I read it a few months ago. I've wondered if Jenkins might add Phil Mickelson to that list now and mostly I've wondered who will be next.
There must be a new rock star unless, as Jenkins says, we want the sport to go the way of slalom kayaking.
Rock stars buoy this sport. Superstars buoy other sports but it takes a rock star to carry golf.
The problem is ... who?
Tiger still has a lot of time left to shoulder the mantle -- a decade or even more -- as he will continue rock starring well into his 40s.
Here's a list of folks who will not be golf's next rock star:
Patrick Reed (LOL)
They are all very interesting folks, great stories even, but not rock stars.
There can only be one and he is one we haven't tested yet here in the US. A foreign-born lad, one who is willing.
Rory McIlroy said so before the Masters.
"Golf's in a funny place at the minute," McIlroy said. "You are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past with Tiger, Vijay [Singh] and Phil.
"I'd like to establish myself as that sort of player and someone's got to step up, so I'm trying to be that person and it would be a great place to start next week."
He was talking then about the Masters, which he didn't win, but the same mantra still rings true.
If you talk to most people inside the sport they wouldn't list Spieth or Reed or any of those fine golfers as the future.
McIlroy is the one, the one upon whom the mantle can rest.
He is supremely talented and he has that rock star swagger. He has that thing that rock stars have. It is inexplicable but ever-present.
So when I think of the future of golf and rock stars and who will be next on the short list, McIlroy is the only golfer on the PGA Tour who can undergo the metamorphosis.
The problem is that the bar was set so high by the three before him that he must win big and win big soon. He must make folks forget Tiger with cocky fist pumps and smoldering 150-golfer fields. He must transform into a larger-than-life figure by what he does on the course.
I'm not sure that's in him. He's great, the most talented golfer in the world for my money, but again, we aren't talking about stars or even superstars here.
That transformation felt like it was being laid in place in 2011 and 2012 when he won his first two majors but then 2013 happened.
McIlroy needs one this year, maybe two or all three. He needs to get the hype machine cranking. Get folks on the day shows screaming about whether he can double (!) or triple (!) Nicklaus' record.
Golf needs him to take the throne because when it comes to rock stars in this sport it's either going to be Rory or it's going to be someone you've never heard of. A 12-year-old beating balls on a course in Indianapolis or Charlotte, taking cash from 20-something strangers.
Someone with rock star status in his future.
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