Young versus old looms at The Barclays

By: abadam

Young guns and old sharpshooters will square off to get the upper hand in this year’s FedExCup play-offs in The Barclays.

With 20-somethings having won five of the last six Major championships, including 25-year-old Keegan Bradley’s win at this month’s PGA Championship, many observers sense a changing of the guard at the top of the game.

The elite field of 123 that will launch the four-event, season-ending series at Plainfield Country Club is just about equally divided on the both ends of the age spectrum, offering an even battlefield for bragging rights.

Thirty players in the field are under 30, while 26 of the competitors are 40 or over.

“You’re seeing kind of a generational change,” said 26-year-old Webb Simpson, who notched his first win on the US PGA Tour at last week’s Wyndham Championship.

“A lot of young guys are playing well. I think young guys are giving other young guys confidence. It is pretty cool to see. It’s almost turned into old versus young guys.”

Phil Mickelson, a grizzled veteran at age 41, disagreed.

“I don’t see it that way. I love seeing the game of golf succeed, I love seeing it grow internationally. We need good young players,” Mickelson told Reuters on Wednesday.

“I don’t see it as a young against old. I feel like we’re all in the same thing together. We’re all trying to promote the sport, trying to support it and create interest in the game. We’re on the same team here.”

The first four FedExCup titles were won by veterans with Tiger Woods winning the inaugural event in 2007, followed by Vijay Singh, Woods again in 2009 and Jim Furyk last year.

Nick Watney, 30, who enters the play-offs at the top of the standings ahead of 44-year-old Steve Stricker and Simpson, said Woods has something to do with the surge of younger players.

“Tiger made golf cool, and a lot of these guys that are winning now were 15 or 14 years old when he first came out,” the long-hitting Californian said.

“So I think the quality of players that are coming out now is maybe as high as it’s ever been. I just think this was a matter of time coming, and I think it will continue.”

Padraig Harrington, a three-time Major champion who turns 40 next week, said winning a single Major did not set one apart from the pack.

“It is a rare occasion for a guy to win his second Major, much rarer than it is for a rookie to win the first one,” said the Irishman.

Only five players in The Barclays field have more than one Major on their resume: Mickelson (4); Ernie Els (3); Harrington (3); Singh (3) and Retief Goosen (2).

World number three Stricker, who has finished second, third and seventh overall in previous FedExCup play-offs, said he loved playing and did not expect a drop-off.

“Desire is the biggest thing,” he said. “The biggest thing when you get this old is the desire to come out here and play on a weekly basis and be ready to be competitive.”

Mickelson agreed.

“I don’t think there’s anything physically different that will prohibit guys from playing well in their 40s,” he said.

“It’s motivation. How motivated are you in your 40s to continue to try to play golf at the highest level?”

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