The future for Tour players

He’s seven feet of pure muscle, hits it 500 yards, and will be winning Majors before he’s old enough to drink… or will he?

Golf doesn’t hang around when it comes to looking for the ‘next big thing’. Superstars barely have time to catch their breath before the world is anointing their successor. Is Rory McIlroy the next Tiger Woods? Is Jordan Spieth the new Rory McIlroy? Poor 22-year-old Jordan will soon be looking over his shoulder for the latest prodigy to come snapping at his heels.  

But what will the next generation of tour pros look like? We spoke to some of the current crop to gauge their thoughts…

The future of golf

Built like athletes…

Tiger and Rory are athletes. They train like athletes, eat like athletes and have the physiques of athletes. While a brigade of wine-swilling, burger-eating, smoking stalwarts remain, they will shrink in number and die out as the margins between success and failure shrink to within one deadlift or bicep curl.

Distance always has been and always will be an advantage, so training your body to generate as much of it as you can will become increasingly imperative. “We already have guys hitting it over 400 yards, and we haven’t even had the big men come yet,” says Gary Player. “We’re going to have guys on tour that are 6ft 5in and built like Tarzan. They’re going to hit the ball 400 yards or more without even trying. There’ll be guys come out and hit a wedge to every par 5.” 


Young and old…

While players will arrive on tour younger, we are also likely to see winners get older. Player added: “I worked hard at having a long career, but the lifespan of a golfer is likely to get even longer as people are starting at an earlier age to watch their diet, health, and fitness and playing for longer. You could easily have a champion from 16 to 60.”


They’re getting younger…

Ever found yourself watching a tournament and feeling old as someone half your age displays composure and maturity you can only dream of to win a title against the world’s best? Be prepared for it to happen a lot more often. Chinese 14-year-old Andy Zhang became the youngest player to ever qualify for a Major when he played in the 2012 US Open.

But Zhang now looks long-in-the-tooth compared to Lucy Li, who played in last year’s US Open aged 11. “Pros are becoming younger and golfers are now becoming equipped physically and mentally much earlier in their careers to compete for Majors,” says Matteo Manassero, the youngest ever European Tour winner.“By 2020, we will see younger winners than ever before,” adds the Italian, who was 17 years, 188 days when he won the 2010 Castelló Masters.  


An Asian World number 1…

“I think there will soon be more winners coming from China and the Far East,” says Paul Casey. “Within 10 years, I predict that the top 10 in the world will be made up of an equal split of Asian, European and US players.”

“The way things are going we’re looking at the balance of power turning more and more towards Asia,” agrees Lee Westwood. “They’re producing better players and putting on better tournaments and this trend is definitely going to continue. I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four of the world’s top 10 from Asia by 2020.”

Annika Sorenstam has witnessed the same trend in the women’s game. “We’ve seen a revolution in women’s golf over the past 10 years and there’s no sign of it stopping,” she says. “Asia is the focal point and I see this as something that will continue and even increase.”