By Ron Green, Jr., First Published in Global Golf Post

The old adage that youth is wasted on the young – credited to writer George Bernard Shaw and adopted by generations old enough to remember when watching television required just one remote control device – may have aged out in professional golf.

There was a time, conventional thinking suggested, that a player’s prime was from the late 20s into the mid-30s, unless your name was Vijay Singh, who made winning in his 40s look as easy as dipping French fries into ketchup.

Consider the world golf rankings on both the men’s and women’s side. Three of the top five players in the men’s rankings are 25 years old or younger.

No. 1 Scottie Scheffler is 25, the same age as third-ranked Collin Morikawa. Viktor Hovland, No. 5, is 24 years old.

Think of it another way: Jordan Spieth (28), Rickie Fowler (33) and Justin Thomas (days from his 29th birthday) are what amounts to a golf generation older than the guys they’re chasing at or near the top of the rankings now.

It’s no different on the women’s side where four of the top five in the world are 25 or younger. Jin Young Ko, the world No. 1, is 26 years old, then comes Nelly Korda (23), Lydia Ko (25), Atthaya Thitikul (19) and Minjee Lee (25).

Pay your respects?


Pay your dues?

There’s no time for that.

“When I came out, I was really confident that I was going to learn how to get it done. It took me a little while, but it was taking people a little while back then,” said Stewart Cink, who arrived full-time on the PGA Tour with a guy named Tiger Woods in 1997.

“There was a getting-your-feet-wet period back then. Now I think players compete against better players more often when they’re younger. They have more access to technology. There is more available to make you better and ready to play, so when they come out here they don’t have that get-your-feetwet period. There’s no break-in. They just come out ready.”

As is generally the case, let’s note that Woods is an exception. He became No. 1 in the world as a 21-year-old, the youngest ever, and spent more than 13 years atop the world rankings.
Lydia Ko was so young when she reached No. 1 in the world – 17 years old – that she’s already on her second climb up the rankings after a career downturn a few years ago.

“They are definitely more prepared earlier,” said Judy Rankin, a World Golf Hall of Famer. “When they get on the LPGA Tour, it’s not the first time they’ve experienced the big stage.”

Others have rocketed up the men’s rankings. Rory McIlroy reached No. 1 as a 22-yearold. So did Jordan Spieth. They are the exceptions, not the rule, though the rule may be changing.

As most things over the last25 years in golf tend to do, it goes backto Woods. He changed what was possible with how he played and how he prepared. It may be as simple as seeing is believing.

“It’s the trickle-down effect,” Rickie Fowler said. “Guys that are a few years behind me said, he got out there and had success; why can’t we do that?” As most things over the last 25 years in golf tend to do, it goes back to Woods. He changed what was possible with how he played and how he prepared. Gym time became a priority. Technology restructured teaching and playing. If knowledge is power, players and teachers have more power to improve that ever before. “I mention all the time to friends of mine, when I was in high school I had no sense of how much my ball was spinning, how to hit the driver further, not realizing that … spin and launch were the most important things to hitting the golf ball far. I just had a feeling that if I swung harder it would go farther, but that’s not necessarily the case,” 30-yearold Patrick Cantlay said.

“So the young guys when they come out now, I don’t want to say have an advantage, but you can definitely see that they play a different game. They swing hard, they hit it high and straight and they go for almost every flagstick. And I would say when I was growing up it was slightly different.”

Davis Love III was a young phenom more than 30 years ago. Now he’s a two-time Ryder Cup captain and the Presidents Cup captain, giving him the perspective of having been there, done that and now seeing how different young players are than he was. “They’re coming out ready to play. Jordan and now Scottie and Justin Thomas, and they’re coming out not scared,” Love said. “It took me a long time to get comfortable hanging around Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Justin doesn’t have any problem hanging around Tiger Woods. He’s idolized him and watched him and he wants to learn from him, but they have become friends. He’s not intimidated by that.”

When Morikawa, Hovland and Matthew Wolff stormed the PGA Tour three years ago, it was almost shocking how quickly they made themselves comfortable. Wolff won his fourth professional start. Morikawa won his sixth pro start, then quickly added two major championships. Hovland needed less than a full season to get his first PGA Tour victory.

“What we’re given in college and the resources we’re given and that are at our fingertips growing up, and especially even in junior golf now, you have these opportunities to be prepared,” Morikawa said. “What Scottie, Viktor, myself, what a lot of these young guys – even like JT and Jordan, they kind of just inspired us and gave us that belief that it’s possible to get out here really quickly.”

It isn’t just a matter of age. It’s a matter of perspective, too. “Instead of being intimidated by what they’ve seen,” Rankin said, “they’re inspired by it.”

Top: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler is one of three players under 25 among the top five in the rankings