June 23, 2015 / By Samantha Baier
As history has shown, one player can change the game of golf forever. The ‘Tiger Effect,” which gave the sport a big boost in both players and viewers in the 90s, has subsided. Golf fans are yearning for not just a new superstar, but a player they can connect with both on and off the course. Judging by the first half of the 2015 season, the next generation of golfers is ready to take the reins.
Undeniably, Jordan Spieth is the hottest name in golf this year. As if the Masters win wasn’t enough, Spieth’s win last weekend made him the youngest Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923 and only the sixth golfer in history to win the first two legs of golf’s Grand Slam in the same year. That is quite a feat for a golfer a month shy of his 22nd birthday.
Then there’s 26-year-old Rory McIlroy, still pegged as the man-to-beat – holding the number one spot on golf’s world rankings. He most recently showed his dominance at the Wells Fargo Championship, setting course records at Quail Hollow.
Finally, there’s Rickie Fowler, known for attracting the youngest fans on the tour – claiming his second PGA Tour victory at the prestigious Players earlier this year. His appeal, however, is felt as much off the course as it is on. Fowler was named the “King of Instagram” for PGA Tour athletes with more followers and engagement than any golfer on the platform.
Even veterans like Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell are starting to show up the young guys when it comes to connecting with fans through new digital technology. Both are starting to use Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming app, to peel back the curtain and bring fans in between the ropes.
Most recently, Watson used the app to broadcast the practice rounds at Chambers Bay, giving fans an exclusive look at how he was preparing for the U.S. Open – but he wasn’t alone. McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, also used the app during his practice rounds and even live-streamed his own press conference.
McDowell has said, “[Periscope is useful for] just giving fans a little bit of a first-person view of some of the things we experience out here. The feedback that I’ve got is that it’s certainly revolutionary from a media point of view, being able to show them something a little different from inside of the ropes. I think if used well and used carefully, it can be a very effective way of engaging with people.”
With a new generation of golfers dominating on the course and veterans embracing new technologies, younger golf fans are being brought into the fold, stereotypes are being broken and the game need no longer rely on one athlete to grow the sport.