Well, that was a bizarre Florida swing – and not just because usual ruler Tiger Woods didn’t win.
No champion in this four-tournament stretch – Russell Henley (109), Patrick Reed (44), John Senden (121), Matt Every (94) – was ranked inside the top 40 in the world when he won. In fact, the winner’s average world ranking was 92.
The Florida swing was supposed to start the Road to Augusta, so what happened to all of the stars? The top 10 players in the world combined for just six top 10s on the Florida swing.
Woods withdrew from the Honda, closed with his worst-ever final-round score at Doral and pulled out of Bay Hill, an event he has won eight times. Adam Scott then kicked away the Arnold Palmer Invitational, just as world No. 7 Rory McIlroy had surrendered a late lead at the Honda.
There’s more: Henrik Stenson got off the top-10 schneid Sunday at Bay Hill, but Phil Mickelson is still looking for his first in 2014. Jason Day withdrew from two events because of a thumb injury, while the previously injured Justin Rose had a terrible final round in Tampa and then missed the cut at Arnie’s Place.
So, in the absence of a dominant star, an influx of young, talented, fearless and largely unproven players have filled the void.
Indeed, parity is alive and well on the PGA Tour, which would seem to suggest that we’re in store for another unpredictable major season. The last 20 majors have been won by 18 different players, and that trend appears to have no immediate end in sight with the sport being stronger and deeper than it’s ever been.
“It’s really hard (to win on Tour),” Keegan Bradley said Sunday. “I just feel like the players are so good. From the first guy in the field to the last guy in the field, I feel like we all grew up watching Tiger and you’re seeing his generation play now. They’re not afraid to go win tournaments.”
Of the 19 events this wraparound season, only one has been won by a player who was ranked inside the top 10 at the time of his victory: Zach Johnson, at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.