PEBBLE BEACH, Fla. – Who’s going to be remembered as the best player of this era?
Call it Generation PT, as in Post Tiger.
Of course, that’s if Tiger Woods doesn’t somehow script the greatest comeback of all time and rewrite how we ultimately remember the runs of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and any other emerging talent ready to step up and join that mix.
These aforementioned guys are all still young, with Johnson the oldest at 33 - but possibly just entering his prime - and Day the only other player in his 30s, having just reached that with his birthday in November.
As young as they all are, most of them think about the history they want to make. They are ambitious in wanting to carve out careers that will be remembered as among the greatest in the game.
You can hear them allude to the vision that drives them, hear them touch upon the end games they dream about.
McIlroy, 28, was asked on the eve of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am how different his desire today compares to when he won his first PGA Tour title as a 21-year-old at Quail Hollow.
“It’s different,” McIlroy said on the eve of his first PGA Tour start of the year. “I certainly want it. There’s no doubt about that. I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game, when I decide to call it a day. And I know with the right dedication, and working on the right things, that that could be achievable for me.”
McIlroy said he “recalibrated” after some of the disappointments that went with going winless last year.
“I think I have a great window of opportunity over the next 10, 12 years to play great golf and to leave my mark on the game,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, the desire’s definitely there.”
Day sounded Wednesday like a man who underwent a similar recalibration after also going winless last year. There was a desperation in the work that won him the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago.
Day won’t be satisfied with just the 11 victories he has claimed so far in his career - only one major championship among them.
“I look at 11, and I think that's like a very small number of wins,” Day said. “I want to be a multiple major champion. It would be nice to get the Grand Slam, for sure. But anything above 20 is good. But you got to set yourself a high, high goal.”
Even Spieth, who is just 24, relishes the chance to make history, to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win the career Grand Slam. After winning the third leg at The Open last summer, Spieth shared how quickly things have changed with the history he is already creating.
“It’s a goal of mine,” he said of the Grand Slam. “It's a career goal. Growing up playing golf, I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world, and things have happened very quickly. And it's good and bad, because a lot comes with it.”
Spieth will get his chance at claiming the career Grand Slam again at Bellerive in St. Louis in August, but not before McIlroy gets his chance at claiming the fourth leg of his career Grand Slam quest at the Masters in April.
Pebble Beach isn’t hosting a major this week, but its reputation as one of the most iconic venues in the world, with its list of great champions, makes it a coveted prize. A player’s resume as one of the game’s greats is more complete with a victory here.
Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Billy Casper are among the many great champions here.
“The list of champions is something we are all interested in,” Spieth said.