There is a slow but sure changing of the guard in American golf.
And it could reflect in the Ryder Cup selections.
Tiger Woods is still atop the mountain, and it could take years to reach him even with the most experienced sherpas. Phil Mickelson might be getting slightly taller from all that stretching, but he isn’t going anywhere soon.
The fresh blood includes players like Anthony Kim, a 22-year-old who showed his firepower this month by winning the Wachovia Championship by five shots with a record score.
It includes Brandt Snedeker, who flirted with 59 as a rookie, won in Greensboro and showed plenty of panache in his wild final round at the Masters.
Boo Weekley has game to go with his homespun charm. J.B. Holmes won for the second time in his career at the FBR Open and is just outside the top eight in U.S. qualifying. Sean O’Hair and D.J. Trahan, both in their 20s, now have two PGA Tour victories.
“We’ve had a turnover in American golf,” Mickelson said. “I think that we’ve got a lot of good, young players that are going to make the (Ryder Cup) team this year, and I think that last year’s Presidents Cup team had a real energy boost from those young players who were energetic and enthused and motivated to play well.
“I think we’ll have, hopefully, the same thing on this year’s Ryder Cup team.”
Not to be forgotten is Paul Azinger, who directed the PGA of America to overhaul the qualifying system, now has four captain’s picks. European players expect him to go with experience, but Azinger is unpredictable. He showed a glimpse of that last year when asked whom he would take if he were Presidents Cup captain. He offered Holmes and Bubba Watson, with instructions to hit driver on every hole except for the par 3s.
Azinger wants the hot hand. No experience required, only trophies.
“Hal Sutton said it took a generation to get into this mess, and it will take a generation to get out of it,” Azinger said.
The mess is Europe has captured the Ryder Cup eight of the last 11 times.
MONTY STILL ON EURO RADAR
European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo thinks he’ll have a spot for Colin Montgomerie on this year’s team, if Monty can pull out of a recent slump that has seen him fall to 90th in the world rankings.