Writing on the wall for the game's old stagers
Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30
Pádraig Harrington and most of the other over-40s in the field for the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits have plenty of time to match Julius Boros' record as oldest winner of the last Major of the season.
Boros was 48 years and four months old when he claimed the title at Pecan Valley in 1968.
Harrington, 44 on August 31, has already got his name inscribed on the annals of PGA champions, winning in 2008 at the tender age of 36.
The Irish hero of 2007-2008 during which he annexed the British Open twice and then the PGA, showed in the Open Championship at St Andrews that he still has the game to contend at the highest level.
Perhaps many will consider him an unlikely candidate this week, but Harrington showed in winning the Honda Classic in March and starting the Open Championship final round just two off the lead, that he is far from finished.
That said, overall, the age profile of winners in the last five stagings suggests that the writing is on the wall for the older players.
The new generation are turning this championship, which traditionally has been won by mature professionals, mostly in their thirties, into a young man's playground.
Since 2010, when the PGA was last held at Whistling Straits, the average age of the winners has been lowered to the mid-twenties.
Germany's Martin Kaymer started the trend five years ago at Whistling Straits as a 25 year old.
A year later, Keegan Bradley followed Kaymer into the winner's enclosure. Bradley marked his 25th year and debut in the PGA by defeating all comers at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Rory McIlroy came good at a slightly younger age by taking the title for the first time when he was 23 in 2012, and again at 25 in 2014.
Jason Dufner, 36 in his 2013 victory interrupted the 20-somethings sequence, but this week Jordan Spieth, 22, can restore the balance in favour of the young guns.
That's quite a change for the final Major of the golfing season.
From 1990-1999 inclusive there were only two PGA champions in their twenties - John Daly in 1991 at the age of 25, and Tiger Woods in 1999 aged 23.
The oldest winner in that period was Nick Price, winning his second PGA in 1997 when he was 37 years old; the youngest was Steve Elkington, 32, in 1995.
The period 2000-2009 coincided with Tiger Woods' peak years, a decade when his achievements inspired thousands of young golfers around the world, among them our own Super Kid, Rory McIlroy.
That said, apart from Woods who was 24 in taking the title for the second time in 2000, the PGA of America's flagship championship retained its status as an event in which experience paid dividends.
Vijay Singh pushed that boundary to a new outer limit by his success at Whistling Straits in 2004 at the age of 41, six years after winning his first PGA Championship.
YE Yang of South Korea made history on two counts when he became the second oldest winner of the period 2000-09.
Yang's triumph at Hazeltine in 2009 made him the first Asian winner of a Major and the first man to come from behind to defeat Tiger Woods in the final round of a Major.
Yang was 37 that year, while Woods was 33.
Little did we know then that Tiger was to stay stuck on 14 Majors up to the present day.
Woods was young, sparkling, and refreshingly fearless as he broke into the hallowed halls of Major winners by destroying the field in the Masters in 1997.
Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have led the way in recent years for the younger brigade, showing their peers that anything and everything is possible.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. Will this 2015 PGA Championship continue to be a young man's preserve, or can Harrington, Phil Mickelson, and some of the older guys put the whipper-snappers back in their place?
That will be a tall order.