September 28, 2015 / 5:59 PM / 3 years ago

Future of golf in good hands with new 'Big Three' on top

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Jordan Spieth’s twin win in the Tour Championship and FedExCup playoffs aptly ended a magnificent PGA Tour season for himself and the sport of golf which has enthusiastically embraced a new ‘Big Three.’

Sep 27, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jordan Spieth stands with his trophies after winning the final round of the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Spieth, 22, put his stamp on the 2014-15 season with five titles, including wins at the Masters and U.S. Open, a record $12 million in official PGA Tour earnings plus the $10 million FedExCup bonus, and the low adjusted scoring average.

The Texan’s sensational season signoff at East Lake took the drama out of the upcoming vote by his peers for PGA Tour Player of the Year despite a remarkable run by 27-year-old Jason Day.

The long-hitting Australian won four of six events leading up to the Tour Championship, including the PGA Championship for his maiden major, and had a taste of being world number one.

The campaign’s one-two punch of Spieth and Day followed a commanding season from Rory McIlroy, the 26-year-old Northern Irishman who closed last year’s majors season by winning the British Open and PGA as he reigned as world number one.

Then things got dizzy at the top.

Spieth and McIlroy traded places for four straight weeks after the PGA. Red-hot Day took over last Monday for a one-week stay until Spieth reclaimed top spot with his Sunday triumphs for the sixth successive change at number one.

There has not been a troika anything like this since the days of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

“If you go back several decades to the Big Three, where you had Arnold, Gary and Jack, it just seemed during that 10 or 15-year period they were in a sense at a level of their own and it led to a series of matches which were compelling,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

“There hasn’t been a consistency of rivalry at the top, when you saw the same faces coming down the stretch as many times as you did this year. It was significant. So, it’s a tremendous situation.”

About five years separated each of the old Big Three, with Palmer the elder, followed by Player and then Nicklaus.

The new wave trio are within five years in age and could be battling one another for a long time.

“We all want to beat the crud out of each other,” said Spieth, who was named the PGA of America player of the year on Monday. “We want to beat each other down.”

After the tough talk, Spieth said they were all buddies just hungry to win.

It is not just their frequent appearances in the winner’s circle that has triggered excitement, but the firepower they bring.

Spieth tied Tiger Woods’ record low score at the Masters this year; McIlroy set a host of records with his 2011 U.S. Open triumph at Congressional, and Day set a majors record for low score in relation to par in winning the PGA.

“The fact that there’s been such a high level from numerous guys, it’s cool,” said Spieth. “We push each other.”

Day, who like Spieth has registered five wins in 2015, noted there were other young guns.

“Golf is in good shape,” said the Australian. Not only with myself and Jordan, but Rory, Rickie (Fowler) ... Danny Lee and (Hideki) Matsuyama.”

McIlroy missed a key chunk of the season after injuring his ankle playing soccer with friends, but clearly relishes fully joining in the fun in 2016.

“It’s been a great season and if this is the sign for things to come, then obviously golf is in a really good spot,” he said.

Editing by Frank Pingue

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