AUTHOR : MARK BUTTON
Mark Button has spent the past 17-plus years writing about sports for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He's worked for the Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Rocky Mountain News, CNN/SportsIllustrated.com, Mobile Press-Register and Avid Golfer.
Originally from Kansas, Button has worked for Texas Links since 2008. He published his first children's book in 2011. "Finding Ti Ming & Tem Po, Legend of the golf gods" is a magical journey filled with character-building life lessons. Button plays golf about four times a month and carries an 8.7 GHIN handicap index.
Sometimes my profession infuriates me.
Don't get me wrong. I love my job. Along with the support and love from my family and friends, my health and the health of my dog, I count getting paid to write about golf for Texas Links as a blessing every single night.
Still, every once in a while the mainstream media drives me nuts. National golf writers—or sportswriters of any kind—have an irritating habit of building up athletes at warp speed only to rip them apart when they don't achieve the often unattainable results that (we) they project or predict.
See David Duval. See Sergio Garcia. See Michelle Wie.
We build them up. We tear them down. The "news" cycle continues, and we look for the Next Big Thing to prematurely anoint.
So it went on a late Sunday afternoon during the final round of the PGA Championship. Sports Illustrated senior writer Alan Shipnuck—one of the best golf scribes of my generation—got loose on Twitter and wrote something that had me pulling out what little hair I have left.
"This Bradley kid is so likable. Tons of game and a certain star quality. If he pulls this out could he be the American Rory?"
Here we go.
Yes, Keegan Bradley, the clutch rookie who won the PGA in his first major appearance, was rock solid down the stretch at Atlanta Athletic Club. With two wins this season, he'll get consideration for Player of the Year. His final push at the PGA was as clutch as we've seen since You Know Who ran over that fire hydrant a couple years ago.
Bradley was equally as impressive in May at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, when 35-mph winds and baked out greens in the final round sent the field moonwalking down the leader board. Except for Bradley, who shot a Sunday 68 and made par from the trees on
No. 18 to beat Ryan Palmer in a playoff a week before Bradley turned 25.
Young Keegan Bradley has moxie. He has an "it" quality. There's no denying that. But here's what some national writers don't seem to get: He's just getting started.
As for McIlroy, Shipnuck wasn't alone when he dubbed Rory the "Next Tiger" after the 22-year-old Irishman's joyous U.S. Open romp at Congressional in June. Tons of writers wrote the same story. But Shipnuck was among the most effusive. Here's a line from his U.S. Open game story, posted to SI.com on June 20:
We are going from the Tiger era directly into the Rory era, without passing go or collecting 200 FedEx Cup points.
Really? The Rory Era?
So ... Rory is the New Tiger. And Keegan is the American Rory. And Tiger is ... well, never mind.
Confused? I am, too.
Here are some numbers: Tiger, at age 35, has 71 victories and 14 majors. Rory has three wins and one major. So all Rory has to do to pull even with Tiger is win 68 more tournaments—13 of them majors—in the next 13 years.
Is it possible? Sure it is.
Is it likely? Please.
But we've already moved into the Rory Era. Or is it the Keegan Era?
To invoke the immortal words of Chuck D.: Don't Believe the Hype.
With no dominant player in the game—see Charlie Epps' column on page 14—the national and international golf media is desperate for a savior. Golf does need a new conquering hero, but if you're waiting for the next Tiger Woods to appear, get comfortable. Tiger's greatness comes along about once a generation. Someone will step above the rest eventually, and I'm as eager as anyone to see who it will be.
Will Rory win multiple majors? Yeah, probably.
Will Bradley? Dunno, but I hope so. Do you remember Ben Curtis? Neither does anyone else. He won a major in his mid-20s, too.
The point is: Can we let these young players win a couple of majors before we crown them as the Next Greatest Golfer to Ever Take a Divot? Otherwise, we're setting ourselves up for huge letdowns...and we'll soon be tearing down the Rorys and Keegans of the world for not reaching our lofty expectations.
Sit back, watch and enjoy. Let it happen. Write about what happened, but save the canonizations for those who truly earn it. You read me, Shipnuck?