(Photo courtesy of @jimmywalkerpga via instagram)
The Eagle Nebula is an open cluster of stars in the Serpens constellation 7,000 light years away from Earth. I had to look that up on Wikipedia. Jimmy Walker, the guy who won the PGA Championship yesterday for his first major victory – he could’ve just told you that.
The picture above is from Jimmy’s Instagram account. There’s even a link in his bio where you can buy prints of his (quite magnificent) space photography. I don’t know what his process is exactly for taking these photographs, but it’s not with his iPhone 6 plus. It’s from an RCOS16″ that is housed in an observatory somewhere in central California. Jimmy told me.
His profile is unique when compared to his fellow tour professionals. I chose one picture from five top tour player accounts:
Guess Jimmy’s (hint: it looks like a brain).
Jimmy’s hobby of space photography has to be one of the most interesting hobbies on tour. Well, it’s between that and Rickie’s passion for “getting chicks.”
Walker’s main hobby of course is golf. Sure, we can go as far as saying it’s his profession, especially after winning the PGA wire-to-wire. Walker not only played solid golf for four major rounds, but came up in the clutch the last two holes when the heat was turned up by Jason Day. Day’s 2nd shot on the par 5 18th was the shot of the tournament. It’s questionable if any other player in the field is even capable of sticking a 250+ yard uphill 2-iron to 15 feet, especially in the final round, on the last hole. The roar made Walker back off of his birdie putt on 17, which was to give him a three shot lead. It felt like a must-make for Jimmy. He re-gathered himself, stepped up, and got the birdie to lip in on the low side. That was Jimmy’s clutch shot of the tournament. Day of course went on to make eagle on 18 and forced Walker to get down in three from the deep rough just off the green – which he did. The birdie putt on 17 ended up being the deciding factor in those last couple of holes.
Was it an easy time for Jimmy? Of course not, but it seemed like it. Not only does he not break a sweat, but Day (the #1 in the world) never made a real push on the back nine. After Day came close with a birdie on 11, Walker answered right back, draining a long birdie putt on the same hole. Day didn’t have another push until his eagle on 18. Day is a phenomenal player, the current best in the world, and has showed signs of greatness. But, we have been spoiled by a man named Tiger.
You may remember him. Always the best, always in contention, always makes a charge, always wins. We now expect that behavior from the best players of this new generation: Spieth, Rory, Dustin, Jason. We still look for a new “Big 3” a la Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player. But this is a new age. It is different than past generations. The Big 3 and Tiger have both influenced this next era, which has yet to be clear. The competition is tougher, the players stronger, the technology better. It breeds a culture of “it’s up for grabs.” There are multiple upper-echelon players currently on tour that can win any tournament and beat everyone else with their best game. Stenson, ZJ, Rose, Phil, Rickie. Look at the majors this year – won by four different first-time major winners. It’s not a dominance by just one player – It’s a collective dominance. Longer drives, lower scores, records broken. We yearn for a chosen one to rise above all else, but can never latch on for very long: Rory getting to four majors in 2014, then Spieth in 2015, then Day beginning 2016, then DJ’s U.S. Open/Bridgestone run.
What’s next? This is the age of short-lived dominance. There’s a huge pool of players lurking at every moment to become the next obsession. In this new age, it is a possibility to see multiple players battle it out with their A-game like Stenson and Phil did at The Open. We didn’t get that in the Tiger era. Jack and Arnie had a couple great battles which all began in 1962 at Oakmont, but their peaks weren’t aligned perfectly. Arnie was about a decade ahead of Jack. Phil and Tiger never really battled one-on-one at the peaks of their game. Now, we have a handful of young, great players that are all peaking around the same time. Spieth, Rory, DJ, Day, and others. We will see more duels in this new age like Phil vs. Stenson. The last duel was Jack vs. Tom 40 years prior. Every major for the next 10-15 years has a high potential of legendary battles – and not always with the same players. Majors will be more like fight cards – 2016 MASTERS: Spieth vs. Willett ; 2016 Open Championship: Phil vs Henrik.
This is the age of duels.