Four just seems like a natural number for a celestial grouping. The Grand Slam. The Four Horsemen. There are four busts on Mount Rushmore after all.
If there was a sport that seemed like it should worship its players in groups of four, it would be golf. The standard playing configuration is the foursome. The base score comes from the par four. But it has always been the Big Three in golf, going all the way back to the turn of the 20th century and the Great Triumvirate in Great Britain – Harry Vardon, John Henry Taylor and James Braid. The trio won 16 of 21 Open Championships during one stretch.
Then there was Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. And, of course, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. How hard is it to make the Big Three a Big Four in golf? Ask Billy Casper. Competing through the prime of his career against Palmer and Nicklaus and Player in their primes he piled up 51 PGA wins, two U.S. Open titles, a Masters win and five Vardon Trophies for low stroke average, but still no one was calling it the Big Four.
Is Rickie Fowler Going to Make Golf a Big Four?
Rickie Fowler started the calendar year 2016 well with an impressive overseas win at Dubai and had the Phoenix Open won this past weekend until his drive on the 71st was too good – it landed on a downslope and rolled through the green into a watery demise on the 358-yard hole. He wound up in a playoff with Hideki Matsuyama and ultimately lost on the fourth playoff hole.
It was an emotional defeat for Fowler who shed tears in a post-round press conference as his family, including his grandfather, was in attendance, making the blown lead that much more painful. Immediately, Fowler watchers began debating whether this will be a setback or a kick in the rear for the flashy 27-year old in his attempt to turn the current Big Three into a “Big Four.”
Whoa, Slow Down…
A year ago at this time there was not a Big Three at all. There was not even a Big Two. There was only Rory McIlroy. The golfing powers that be are so worried about replacing Tiger Wood’s star power that they are manufacturing Big This and Big That on a regular basis.
If McIlroy doesn’t return to peak form, Spieth doesn’t match his wonder year, and Day’s big summer of 2015 was just a hot streak… is that a Big Three? And if they do, how is Fowler the anointed fourth head on golf’s 2016 Mount Rushmore? He has three PGA victories – no majors – in over 150 starts, plus a couple of nice international wins that have motored him to Number Four in the world.
How is that more impressive than the man who beat him at Phoenix? Matsuyama is four years younger than Fowler and now has two PGA victories (one at the Memorial that is just a tick less important than Fowler’s Players Championship) and eight international titles. He doesn’t have any commercials and his Q scores in America don’t register but there is plenty of game there. Only time will tell if Fowler’s emotional defeat will serve as a humbling moment for the young player, giving him the drive to focus more on his game and less on his endorsements and trendy golf apparel choices.
The bottom line is there is just a lot of young talent percolating on the PGA Tour these days. It will be more enjoyable for fans if they just watch guys sort themselves out by their play each week instead of trying to herd them into some sort of convenient media story.