Tiger isn't the only game in town

February 28, 2009

The notion that Tiger Woods might be bigger than the game itself has some merit that is born out by television ratings in tournament in which he does or does not play. Woods is a transcendent star, certainly, but disregarding the celebrity factor for the moment, what you'll find is that the game's future is in good hands, with or without Woods.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, 19, has reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and is threatening to become the youngest winner of a PGA Tour event in history. He already has beaten a strong field, winning the Dubai Desert Classic recently.

New Zealand amateur Danny Lee, 18, is the youngest ever to win the U.S. Amateur, eclipsing Woods' record. Lee recently won the Johnnie Walker Classic against a quality field and is expected to turn pro some time after the Masters.

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, 17, seems to possess an abundance of talent and charisma, both of which should become evident once he grows more comfortable playing outside Japan. Ishikawa missed the cut in his PGA Tour debut at the Northern Trust Open, but he has invitations to play in the Transitions Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters.

Toss in Anthony Kim, 23, and what you have is one of the best and most exciting group of young players ever. None might rise to the level of Tiger, but collectively they could slow his assault on history.

-- John Strege