No doubt, McIlroy and Fowler are part of a youth movement that is making golf more appealing to young people — at least watching golf at tournaments. But for so many years, Woods was such a dominant force that few people ever bothered checking on other players. There was no need to look for anyone else, because Woods was clearly the best. There was Woods and everyone else.
On the range Sunday at Quail Hollow, a group of 21 kids pressed against the ropes to watch Fowler warm up. Ten of them wore his golf cap. Seven of them were dressed in orange, including one kid who was head-to-toe in orange and even wore a plastic mustache.
The importance of Fowler's win was credibility, to show that he is about more than just style. It might be the start of a riveting rivalry with McIlroy for years to come, though that has not developed.
And if Woods gets back to the top of his game, it could get really interesting — the greatest player of his generation taking on kids who weren't around during his greatest wins, now with their own set of fans.
Golf is lacking a clear-cut No. 1 at the moment, something McIlroy hopes to change in the coming months. Woods remains the game's top attraction. Just look at the size of his gallery, the amount of TV coverage he gets. For so long, golf was Woods.
"It's a bit like tennis," McIlroy said. "Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal) is all the general public knows. With Tiger not playing his best, it has spread the spotlight out. And that's a good thing for us."
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