The Zozo Championship saw a new generation of talented golfers take over, while older legends like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson struggled.
There was a time not that long ago when an event like the Zozo Championship, which took place this week at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, would have been a battle between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. But on Sunday, it became apparently obvious that the torch has been passed from Tiger and Lefty to a younger generation.
The Zozo came down to a back-nine showdown between the eventual winner, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. Those players are ages 28, 27 and 25 and they, along with a few others, are among the leaders of the new generation that’s now on top of the golfing world.
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In addition to the win by Cantlay, Rahm finished second and Thomas finished third this week in California. Also in the top 10 were 27-year-old Cameron Smith, 28-year-old Corey Conners and 25-year-old Cameron Champ. That’s six of the top 10 players in the 77-player event who are in their 20s.
Meanwhile, Woods and Mickelson struggled to keep up with the youth movement. Woods, who is 44 years of age, opened with a 4-over par 76 on Thursday but rebounded nicely with a 6-under par 66 on Friday. Tiger had a 1-under par 71 on Saturday and closed with a 2-over par 74 on Sunday. Altogether, that left Tiger at 1-under par and in a tie for 72nd place.
Mickelson, age 50, had a week that surprised absolutely no one.
He had a roller coaster round on Thursday that somehow ended with Lefty at even par. On Friday, he had a stretch where he went 2-9-3-2 on his way to a 2-over par 74. Then on Saturday, Mickelson made nine birdies, but could only manage a 5-under par 67. On Sunday, Lefty had only five pars in his round, which also included three double bogeys. When he finished, it was a 6-over par round of 78, which dropped him from 68th place into 76th.
Mickelson beat exactly one player, Michael Thompson, this week. Having already played, and won, two PGA Tour Champions events, that appears to be a tour where Mickelson can be much more effective at this point.
It happens to the greatest champions in every sport, that they pass the torch to the next generation. While Tiger could have a little something left in the tank, possibly, it appears that Lefty’s time on the PGA Tour is drawing to an end. And this week showed that, despite the end being near for these two great champions, the game of golf is in great shape moving forward.