Now that Tiger Woods has tumbled hundreds of places down the World Rankings and has not won a Major since the 2008 U.S. Open, his throne is up for grabs.
In recent years nobody has claimed it, despite many appearing to be the heir to the throne. The number one position in the World Rankings has been passed back and forth between a handful of players in that time, with nobody stamping their authority on the game as a whole. Nobody has won more than four Majors in that time period since 2008, though Rory has won four.
The leading candidates are Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka. Let’s look at each of these players individually and see if they have what it takes to be the next Tiger Woods and truly dominate the game of golf.
McIlroy has won more Majors than the others on this list (four) with only The Masters eluding him to date. He is a friend of Woods, as they both have major sponsorship deals with Nike (even with the recent equipment departure). McIlroy grew up idolizing the man who won 14 Major championships.
McIlroy was highly heralded from a young age. When he gets a hot run of form, he is unbeatable. The main problem McIlroy has struggled with in recent years is inconsistency, mainly with his putting. There is no better player from tee to green than McIlroy, but he often let himself down when it comes to the short stuff.
He has also battled a number of injuries in recent years, which have made him miss many high-profile events. For a player who is only 27 years old, this is slightly worrying when it comes to his longevity in the game.
Spieth is the youngest on this list of players and has achieved quite a lot in a short space of time. Currently 23 years old, he has already won the U.S. Masters and the U.S. Open. In 2015, after winning the first two Majors of the year, he came very close to achieving the Grand Slam of Golf. He finished in a tie for fourth place at the British Open and runner-up at the PGA Championship. Nobody has come as close as this to winning all four Majors in a calendar year since Woods.
Time is on his side. Spieth seems to have the maturity and killer instinct that could make him the next Woods.
Even with his recent improved play, the consensus is that it’s not very likely that we will see Fowler as the next Woods. One big criticism is that he lacks the instinct to close out events and dominate his opposition. To date, he only has three PGA Tour wins under his belt, despite having been on Tour since 2010. He has performed consistently well in the period since then, but he lacks the spark that is needed for someone looking to be the next Woods.
Early in his career, Day said that he would dominate the game of golf like Woods did. He has always been inspired by the great one ever since he was a young kid in Australia. Day showed glimpses of Woods-like dominance when he won five events on the PGA Tour in 2015, including the PGA Championship. Four of those wins came in the space of six events, something which Woods was well-known for doing.
Koepka is a player who started his career on the European Tour to gain some experience before he plied his trade on the PGA Tour. He achieved some reasonable success there. It was in 2015 that he won his first PGA Tour event and it is still his only win to date. His highest finish in a Major Championship occurred in the 2014 U.S. Open and 2016 PGA Championship where he finished in a tie for fourth place both times.
He is nowhere close to being the prolific young star that Woods was early on, but if recent play is any indication, we’ll be hearing his name a lot in the coming years. His 3-1 record at the 2016 Ryder Cup, including a Sunday Singles victory over Danny Willett, can’t go unnoticed.
Johnson certainly has the off-course controversies to match that of Woods, having been suspended from the Tour in the past for abusing certain substances. The 32-year-old was long thought to be flaky under pressure, having gifted a number of high-profile events to his opponents after he collapsed in the last few holes. He finally overcame this obstacle in 2016 when he won his first Major Championship at the U.S. Open.
It was one of three wins for Johnson. While he has the same swashbuckling style as Woods, there are still questions about his ability to close out big tournaments, something that Woods was notorious for doing.
If we had written this article a month ago, Thomas might not have made the list. Up until this season, the 23-year-old had only won one tournament, the CIMB Classic back in 2015. But we’re writing this on January 26 and he has already won three tournaments this season. Among the three, he earned a repeat win at CIMB Classic in October. And if the three wins alone weren’t enough this season, he carded an opening round 59 during his win at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
He is literally (okay, not literally) on fire right now. Not surprisingly, he currently has an early lead in the FedEx Cup Point Standings and the money list. But the big question is still unanswered. Will he be able to sustain this great play for the rest of the year? Is he just having a stretch of good play or is this the beginning of domination? We’ll hold our opinions until Augusta, but will certainly be watching week in and week out.
What do you think? Let us know down in the comments which player is the next Tiger Woods.
— Andrew O’Malley