Will we see a King of Golf again? Will it be Spieth?
Jordan Spieth’s victory at The Open Championship two weeks ago got him going again on the major championship victory tote-board after an eight-major drought. He's up to three now, a Masters, U.S. Open and Open. While he's hot, he could take the upcoming PGA and have a career Grand Slam lickety-split.
The Open triumph from the jaws of disaster also restarted talk of who is on track to be crowned King of Golf.
For decades, golf was ruled by a King or a small cluster of Kings, starting with Allan Robertson in the mid-1800s. After him, the line of succession roughly follows this order:
Willie Dunn Sr. and Old Tom Morris; Willie Park Sr.; Jamie Anderson; Bob Ferguson, Willie Fernie and Young Tom Morris; John Ball Jr. and Willie Park Jr.; Harry Vardon, James Braid and J.H. Taylor; Willie Anderson; Walter Hagen; Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen; Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead; Bobby Locke; Arnold Palmer and Gary Player; Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson. There was quite a gap between Watson and Tiger Woods, who was the last true King of Golf.
Between the two TWs and ever since Woods abdicated, we haven’t had a King in the truest sense, just a lot of Princes. And that brings us to Spieth. All the kings above had many challengers during their reign, princes primarily, but the kings were undeniable rulers of their time, either dominant in the majors, regular tour events, or a combination of both. Of active players now, Spieth (3 majors), Rory McIlroy (4) and Martin Kaymer (2) have the combination of youth and multiple majors that could translate into a King of Golf, but Spieth and McIlroy have each won three of the four majors and that versatility should translate into the best chances to continue winning majors.
With McIlroy’s last major win the 2014 PGA, however, one has to wonder if the 28-year-old can get back on the winning track. You need to win at the steady rate of every four to six majors to be considered a King. And you need to play the Woods way: An incredible exception to his era, Woods was immune to financial gain as incentive and had the winning desire that was a trademark of the great players before him. Money was not the driving factor, winning was.
Phil Mickelson (5 majors), Ernie Els (4), Padraig Harrington (3), Angel Cabrera (2), Retief Goosen (2), Zach Johnson (2) and Bubba Watson (2) don’t have time on their side to be a King. Dustin Johnson and Jason Day have one major each and need to start winning them regularly to get into the King conversation.
Right now, Spieth and McIlroy are the lead princes to be King of Golf, but, in a historic twist, there is a good chance we have seen the last King with Woods.
Today’s players all talk about how hard it is to win a major and to contend consistently. Combine that with a modern player’s mentality that the riches available to them don’t require them to be as hungry to win, and the goal of winning majors may not seem as critical. Players can feel content when finishing down the standings still creates a big bank account.
We have the PGA coming up at Quail Hollow Aug. 10-13. I’d love to see the pursuit of being considered a King of Golf intensify with a Spieth, McIlroy, D.J., or Day victory. It’s what brings interest to the sport and participation of golfers, and golf is always in need of both.