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Shipnuck: It's the most wide-open the sport has been in this century. Tiger's absence created such a vacuum. The old standbys—Phil [Mickelson], Ernie [Els] and Jim Furyk—are in the twilight of their careers. You don't know who the favorites are, even at the majors. The somewhat eclectic winners are proof.
Garrity: This year strikes me as a generational shift. It's not only Rory McIlroy's emergence. It's also the solid play of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson and the inability of the bigger names to dominate. When Ernie and Sergio García have sympathy fans, you know there's been a changing of the guard.
Bamberger: If it's one and done, like Shaun Micheel and Ben Curtis, then it's not very interesting. If it's one and they're going to be competitive for a long time, like Tom Watson and Tom Weiskopf and Lee Trevino were, then we're talking about a potential golden age. We don't know yet which this is, but I'd guess Rory and Charl Schwartzel will be around for a long time.
Anonymous Pro: Golf has turned into musical chairs at the top. There's no great gap between Number 1 and Number 2 or even Number 8. There's so much parity, any of 50 guys could win a major. Before, there might have been 25.
Shipnuck: Parity is great for a while. You mint new stars, and players elevate their careers and gain confidence. That's fun. But at some point you need a dominant player to drive the sport's narrative. If we're still trying to figure out the lay of the land two years from now, golf could be in trouble.
Hack: Is golf better when one guy dominates? I don't think golf ever had better exposure or TV ratings or purses than since a certain dominant figure arrived in 1997. People like to root for dynasties and see them challenged, whether it's Michael Phelps or John Wooden or the Lakers.
Van Sickle: King Louis [Oosthuizen] winning the British Open last year in a romp was fun, the baseball equivalent of seeing the Pittsburgh Pirates in first place. This is star-building time in golf. We know what happens when the Tour has two stars who become big—there isn't room for anyone else. It's exciting but not necessarily healthy.
Garrity: Tiger's dominance was great for the media and the cult of celebrity, but he apparently didn't inspire people to take up the game. He was this genius, a Mozart, who raised the bar so high that normal folk were left with nothing to do but gawk. And by normal folk I mean Tour players.
Hack: Someone has to emerge. We have guys at Numbers 1 and 2 who haven't won a major.
Anonymous Pro: Look at Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman—the guys who used to be Number 1. They couldn't go out in public without being recognized. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer could walk into a GolfSmith store and hardly be recognized. Being Number 1 doesn't mean what it used to.