From the 1913 U.S. Open win by Francis Ouimet to Disney’s retelling of his story in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” nine decades later, golf has been inspiring change continuously throughout the years. As golfers began to enjoy the Golf Channel and the Information Age, it changed the game and inspired the perfect golf swing for two million new golfers annually.
The 1990s were all about golf royalty with Payne Stewart attaining six PGA wins, Lee Janzen winning 10, Davis Love III picking up 12 victories and Nick Price earning 16 wins. Of course, one of the most iconic moments of the decade came not from these players but from Justin Leonard when he brought the crowd alive after making a 45-foot birdie and cinching an American victory in the annual Ryder Cup competition.
In 2001, there was no bigger name than Tiger Woods. As the first golfer to win the four major championships ― PGA Championship, Open Championship, Masters Tournament and United States Open Championship ― he became an iconic figure quickly and built a fan base to match. Known for his masterful workmanship regardless of the golf course, fans began to refer to his game as the Tiger Slam.
By 2004, Phil Mickelson earned the first win of his 47 major tournament starts by dropping an 18-foot birdie on the last hole at Augusta National. While Michelson has a reputation today as a champion, he was known before this first significant win as a serial runner-up. This win, however, put him on the map as a real contender. Today, he is celebrated as a 44-time PGA winner and counting.
The ladies of the LPGA did not disappoint fans either. In 2005, Birdie Kim took home a $560,000 U.S. Open prize after overcoming a bunker shot while beating Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang. With players like Kathy Whitworth winning 88 times, Mickey Wright earning 82 victories and Annika Sörenstam taking home 72 trophies, the LPGA has built a fan base because of superior players.
The rules of golf have changed through the years in a bid to enhance gameplay and attract new players. Along with a 40-second stroke-play change on the first of January, golfers have three minutes to find a lost ball, and they must drop them from the knee instead of from the shoulder area. The changes have been received somewhat stoically by some and with humor by others.
There are also some benefits to the rule changes. Players who move a ball or ground their clubs in a hazard no longer face any penalties. Now, the golfers merely need to replace their shots as close to its original place to begin anew without consequences. Also, anyone who is ready can go ahead of other players still searching for balls, which has encouraged faster golf play.
Thanks to new attire, club quality and technology, golf will inevitably evolve again thanks to rising international PGA stars like Joaquin Niemann and Sam Burns. With the new rules making golf much easier to get through the holes, it will attract younger fans to the sport.