Until the upcoming season, there’s going to be some downtime…so in this feature, we’re going to be looking at the second half of the question, “who you got: Tiger or the Field?” We’ll be looking at the handful of players we think have a shot to dethrone the man himself, examining the top guys as well as a few players going under the radar.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t really care for the European Tour. I don’t like the diluted fields of players who would be bottom feeders on the Nationwide Tour, and I don’t like the cavalcade of poorly maintained and designed courses that pop up seemingly every other week or having to stay up until 3 am just to watch two or three golfers with any cache. It’s not that there aren’t any good Euro Tour players and events, there most certainly are, but it just pales in comparison to the PGA Tour, at least in my Star Spangled eyes.
Out of the dark, rainy European world, however, comes two incredible talents who both have the ability to dominate against any competition, and have this unknown, mysterious air around them due to their anonymity stateside. One is shrouded behind his sunglass veneer, eschewing a driver for a strong 3-wood which he can put out there with even the longest hitters and the other, an Ivan Drago clone, both are quiet and relatively unassuming, until they get on the golf course and then it’s scary.
Amongst hardcore golf fans, Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson aren’t unknowns. As a hardcore golf fan, I have no probelm waiting until 3am to go to sleep just so I can watch a few holes of Karlsson overwhelming a golf course with spectacular all-around game or Stenson, looking like a weekend duffer using a mixed bag of off the rack clubs, going on one of his ridiculous tears where he birdies something like 40 holes in a row. These guys aren’t novelties, racking up wins against weak fields on courses they can beat to hell, because if you look at their resume’s, you’ll see they can match up against anyone.
Stenson, the more well known of the two, had a typically strong season in the US, of nine total starts, finishing in the top 10 four times, at WGC Accenture, the Players, and the PGA while carding another top 10 at the British Open. Karlsson did his damage in the majors carding top 10’s in the first three while finishing a respectable 20th at the PGA.
For all the pomp and adulation that the current English and Aussie golf stars get, who amongst those can come even remotely close in their careers to what these two have done in 2008? Geoff Ogilvy? Sergio? Lee Westwood? That’s all I can really think of. Think about all the press Adam Scott gets and then factor in that in one season, both of these guys have THREE TIMES as many top 10’s in majors as Scott has, yet you’ll probably see Scott plastered all through Golf Digest while Stenson gets to race cars in Dubai anonymously and Karlsson gears up for his upcoming fight against Apollo Creed.
Don’t sleep on these guys in the upcoming season. They both have the game to keep up with anyone, yes, including Tiger, and both remain so stoic and emotionless that it’s hard to imagine them choking up big-time in the heat. Both have the distance and creativity to really shine and the experience from weeks dominating on the European Tour, and based on their high major finishes, have no problem going toe-to-toe with their more well known American counterparts.
If you don’t think these guys have legit shots at winning a major this year, you’re delusional. They’ll be there, hell, they were there all last year, you just didn’t notice because they didn’t yell and scream like the European stereotype (see: Garcia, Sergio and Poulter, Ian) or dress like absolute fools (see: Poulter, Ian) with thousands of logos plastered on every inch of fabric (see: Harrington, Paddy and Clarke, Darren) but don’t underestimate them, they’re too good not to make noise.