With the first major championship of the year, the Masters, not until mid-April, professional golf is in what I like to call its “preseason.” Tournaments like the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, the Farmers Insurance Open, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and this past week’s Northern Trust Open are interesting, but are no Majors. That being said, these tournaments have shown that this year’s PGA is going to be highly competitive and more interestingly, full of young, talented and energetic golfers. Arguably the world’s best young golfer, Rory McIlroy, as well as Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, are talented young names who have “household” recognition. That said, I’m looking forward to the younger players who have yet to make it mainstream. The first name that comes to mind is Jordan Spieth who, at age 20, has been playing excellent golf in the early tournaments and looks poised for a breakout year as a legitimate major contender. Even less recognizable than Spieth is Japanese youngster and No. 21 ranked golfer Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama has looked sharp early, finishing fourth in the Phoenix Open in January and could also surprise the PGA as a major contender. With an influx of youthful talent, it’s going to make for a fun and exciting season.
What excites the majority of golf fans for the upcoming season, however, is the question of whether Tiger Woods can win his first major in half a decade. Five years without a major is the longest drought of Tiger’s historic career as he continues to chase Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18. Unlike the majority of the field, Tiger has not participated in many of the early exhibition tournaments. He did participate in the Farmers Insurance Open, but posted a third-round 79, missed the secondary 54-hole cut and finished 80th. This was Tiger’s worst start to any season of his professional career. For Tiger, however, the immediate future is all about one thing: the Masters. As Woods himself puts it, “We’re all just building toward that one week in April.” At this point in his career, shooting a 79 at the Farmers Insurance Open is irrelevant.
Tiger and his legacy are going to be judged on majors and whether or not he can surpass Jack Nicklaus. Tiger has been stuck at 12 for too long and he’s still too good of a player not to win another, even if people have been saying that for the past few years now. It’s not getting any easier for Tiger; the field keeps getting more and more talented. Tiger’s going to have to play some of the best golf of his career in order to win his thirteenth major, and you better believe he’s going to be ready for Augusta come April.