February 25, 2009

Quiet Please!

When did Tiger Woods become an old man? Tim Rosaforte says right about the time some teenagers started lifting hardware

McIlroy (left) and Lee are two of the up and coming young guys that the more "mature" crowd may soon be making way for.

McIlroy (left) and Lee are two of the up and coming young guys that the more "mature" crowd may soon be making way for.

Since Generation Y is all about the iPhone, the text message, multi-tasking and the immediacy of the moment, an appropriate measure of this group of neophytes is what have you clicked on lately. In fact, it's almost reached the point where over 20 is considered "old."

Other than 48-year-old Kenny Perry, the trend so far this season has been toward a generation that is starting to think Justin Timberlake is yesterday's rock star. By that measure, teenagers Rory McIlroy, Danny Lee and Ryo Ishikawa are to golf what L'il Wayne is to pop music.

So before 33-year-old Tiger Woods becomes a grandfather, here is the here-and-now Rosaforte Ranking of players in the world who haven't experienced the big 3-Oh -- or in some cases their 20th birthday.

This top-10 list has nothing to do with the Official World Golf Rankings and everything to do about the latest download, which is why A.K. and Spider Man, cover boys in the Golf World "Man Up" preview issue, have almost become yesterday's webpage. They're all in Augusta, so cue the hip-hop music Billy Payne, because as Woods said in his news conference at the Accenture Match Play, these kids are listening to a different beat.

"It's good to see the game is youthful," Woods said. "This is a different generation than mine, but I think it's great to see."

1. Rory McIlroy. Bushy-haired, chubby-cheeked, this 19-year-old from Northern Ireland plays fearless golf with a near-flawless swing. After some failed attempts, he finally closed in a big way, winning against the best field (until this week) at the Dubai Desert Classic.

2. Danny Lee. So young (18), yet so unfazed by the pressure at the Johnnie Walker, where he birdied four of the last six holes, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion moved up from 562 to 158 in the world rankings, eclipsing what was to be the big story of Ryo Ishikawa at Riviera.

__3. Dustin Johnson.__You can say he won a Fall Series Event and a rain-shortened Pebble Beach, or that he's done far more in the last two months than any of his A-list contemporaries. Backing up his win with a T-10 last week showed maturity and professionalism by the 24-year-old.

__4. Nick Watney.__A win at Torrey Pines, even without Tiger in the Buick field, gets style points over anything played overseas, plus the way he finished, with birdies on the two closing holes, gets bonus credits. The 27-year-old from Fresno didn't qualify for the Accenture, but was T-11 in his Masters debut.

5. Alvaro Quiros. Wins at Qatar, places fifth at Dubai. Even with an early exit from the Match Play (losing in the first round to Stephen Ames), the 26-year-old Spaniard with the pencil-thin sideburns has done more in '09 than his more famous countryman, Sergio Garcia. Quiros ranks 25th in the world, one spot ahead of the reigning Masters champion, Trevor Immelman.

6.Sergio Garcia. With his 29th birthday in January, the Players Champion is the graybeard of this age group -- and the highest ranked at No. 2 in the world. Warming up in the desert with three finishes no worse than T-11, he waited until the Match Play to make his U.S. debut and was knocked out in the first round by 24-year-old Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the No. 63 seed.

7. Camilo Villegas. This has been an up-and-down year for the 27-year-old Colombian, who missed cuts at the FBR and Johnnie Walker, but also wedged around a T-3 at the Buick Invitational, where he shot 72 in the final round to finish two strokes back of Watney. His 7 and 6 win over Rod Pampling in the opening round of the Accenture was more like the back-to-back wins at the end of '08.

8. Anthony Kim. At 23, he's too young to remember Pinball Wizard, but that's been his path this year, bouncing around the globe, rallying to make the cut in Malaysia, losing to Lee in Perth by seven strokes and missing the cut in his only mainland appearance at the FBR. Kim's only saving grace was a T-2 at Kapalua until he blew out Taiwan's Lin Wen-Tang in the opening round of the Match Play.

__9. Ryo Ishikawa.__The competition could be questioned, at least in depth of field, but the finishes in several of the Japan Tour's high-profile events indicate this 17-year-old is worthy of the invitation. Seemed to impress everyone at Riviera more with his dress, his quotes and his swing than his scores, which missed the cut by three strokes.

10. Justin Rose/Adam Scott (tie). Both went out in the first round of the Accenture, but they both have runner-up finishes in '09 to earn the last spot in the top-10. Scott, 28, has a T-2 at the Sony Open and two other halfway decent finishes. Rose, 28, was second to McIlroy in Dubai. They are Nos. 16 and 18 in the world, respectively.