Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are dominating in ways Tiger Woods never could.
They are better for golf in ways Tiger was never programmed to be.
Before you fit me for a strait jacket, let me explain.
Yes, on the golf course, Tiger is the best ever, dominating in ways Jack, Hogan and Jones never did. And, yes, nobody outside of Arnold Palmer ever did more to build the game’s popularity than Tiger.
But in the media center, Tiger can be like an unspectacular grinder, and I get that this was intentional, in many ways, when he was in his prime. The guy couldn’t have a strong opinion that didn’t become a headline or a talk-show debate topic.
That makes what we’re seeing in Spieth, McIlroy and Day all the more admirable. They’re superstars in the media center.
So when these guys win, as Spieth did Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the fun isn’t over when the last putt is holed. It isn’t over until they end their interviews, and that’s great for the game.
Spieth’s willingness to reveal what he’s really thinking makes the game more interesting, makes his triumphs more interesting. His skills in the media center, his willingness to detail explanations of the twists and turns of his journey makes the competition more satisfying when he’s integral to the outcome.
It’s the same with McIlroy and Day.
For players who grew up inspired by Woods, they’ve broken from his legacy in spectacular fashion. These guys are openly more analytical, insightful and opinionated. They are open in ways that help us all better understand a sport we’ve come to love.
McIlroy’s revelation about why he didn’t really go to the Olympics was classic Rory, bold and a bit risky. His admission that “I resent the Olympics because of the position it put me in” with the nationalistic choices it forced him to make was powerful stuff.
Day’s willingness to share even dark thoughts makes him more empathetic. His willingness to share his complicated relationship with an alcoholic father makes him more real.
“Every now and then I think about him and absolutely hate him,” Day told Golf Channel’s David Feherty.
Spieth, McIlroy and Day don’t just deliver great shots that make the game more fun to follow. They deliver insights that make the game more intriguing.
They almost always offer up a worthy postscript.
Of course, there’s risk in this, the risk of opening themselves to the backlash that comes with unpopular admissions.
The bonus today is this sense that as Tiger gets closer to moving into the next chapter of his career, his guard’s coming down, and we’re going to get some postscripts that help fill out his story in ways that richen our appreciation of the game.