Earlier this year on Golf Central a good question was posted to Brian Hewett and me: Players from which of these two age categories will win more events in 2007 on the PGA TOURthose in their 20s or those in their 40s? Im sure the producer thought both of us would choose the age group of 20-29. Brian did; I didnt. I took those in the age group of 40-49. It was a good debate.
Logic would tell you that the 20s group has many times more firepower, much higher world rankings, and all the positive attitudes of youth in their favor. I cant deny that, but I cant help wonder where the up-and-coming American players in their 20s are and how much the international players in their 20s will concentrate mainly on the U.S. PGA TOUR.
Certainly the prospect of an American player in his 20s breaking through for multiple wins in 2007 is not very good. In fact of the U.S. players on the PGA TOUR who are between the ages of 20-29 only two are currently ranked among the top 50 players in the world, Lucas Glover at No. 49 and Charles Howell III, who won the Nissan Open to move up to 16th. This is an amazing statistic and says a lot about how the young American players stack up against those from the rest of the world.
There are several theories about why this situation is occurring, but the one that I believe has the most substance was offered up by Hank Haney in the most recent Golf Digest. Hank points out that more of the good American juniors end up going to college, which may not improve their game as much as those who bypass college and turn professional. Among the young international stars high in the world rankings, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Trevor Immelman, Henrik Stenson and David Howell never went to college. Hanks point is that it is more difficult to make necessary swing changes when youre playing for a college team that needs immediate results. Consequently, for the 20s group to rack up the most victories, the winners will probably have to come from the international ranks.
At the 2007 Mercedes-Benz Championship Vijay Singh got my 40s pick off to a good start. Did I ever think Paul Goydos would follow up with another one in Week 2 at the Sony Open in Hawaii? Absolutely not!
This is a debate I could well lose by the end of the year, seeing as Howell made it 2-2 in the age group battle (25-year-old Aaron Baddeley won the FBR). But, you know what? Its a debate I will love to wage. In fact, I need Davis Love III to help me win. Maybe its because Im closer in age to the 40s than the 20s, but I dont really think so. I think experience may be the most under-rated statistic in golf.
Thats MY VIEW!
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.