Without Tiger Woods, the 2021 Masters Leaderboard Is Wide Open

Without Tiger Woods, the 2021 Masters Leaderboard Is Wide Open


“I wouldn’t be surprised going forward if you end up getting a first-time winner at some point or a number of young guys that are able to do it,” Spieth said last week.

Spieth said Augusta National’s extremely hilly terrain, a feature that is hard to grasp from watching the event on television, might especially benefit younger players.

“Honestly, it’s a tough walk, it’s one of the toughest walks on tour,” Spieth said of Augusta National. “Physically, it can take a toll. So you would think that guys that are in their mid-20s would be in the best position physically.”

Other less-than-household names within golf’s youth movement may have escaped the attention of casual golf fans but are nonetheless worthy contenders this week. Foremost in that group is Sungjae Im, 23, of South Korea, who was the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2019 and tied for second in his Masters debut last year. No Asian has won the Masters, although that has not stopped Im from dreaming of a Korean-style menu that will be served at the annual champions-only dinner the year after he wins the tournament.

“Marinated ribs, of course,” he said in November with a grin.

Change, like the passing of a torch from generation to generation, is in the air at the Masters despite the tournament’s reputation for time-honored traditions. And golf fans may already be warming up to the makeover taking place at the top of the leaderboards.

With the television viewership declining for other sports lately, the ratings for PGA Tour events this year have increased by 10 to 20 percent, and some in golf credit the surge to the increasing prominence of what Jim Nantz, the longtime CBS broadcaster, called “the new brigade.”

“We’ve arrived at a point now where we don’t have to rely on just Tiger,” Nantz said last week. “We all know how enormous his presence is — maybe he comes back one day, that’s not what we’re addressing here. But how does the sport transition to a time when he is not at the top of the game?”



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