Five new faces are reinventing the game of golf as we know it — making it cool and, dare we say, hip. This is most definitely not your father’s game.PGA Tour golfer Rickie Fowler, 22, is resplendent in bright-green shoes, white pants and a vibrant duotoned green-and-pink shirt (topped by a green hat) as he ponders the seemingly simple question I’ve just asked him. ¶ Strangely, for a person whose job it is to answer questions before or after every golf round, Fowler answers the simple query of the last time he wore khaki pants on the golf course with a question of his own.
“On the PGA Tour?”
I say yes, and Fowler doesn’t hesitate this time, “Uh, never.”
Naturally, the next question I ask is if he even owns a pair of khakis, the standard uniform for golfers of all shapes and sizes for decades, and this elicits another quick reply, “Nah.”
Fellow PGA Tour young gun Hunter Mahan, 29, has a similar fashion take on the new group of American pro golfers who are committed to taking golf into the next decade and beyond.
“Before Tiger came along, it was more of a khakis-and–blue-shirt type of sport. [But,] guys aren’t afraid to be different now. Not everybody who plays golf is a white-collar person.”
Young, fashionable, hip, rich and good-looking. Fowler and Mahan, along with Anthony Kim, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, are poised to become the face of the American PGA Tour for decades to come.
Brash, carefree, fearless and already hugely successful, they are proving with each holed putt, fist pump or pointed finger into the crowd, along with one trophy after another lifted high into the sky, that this isn’t, nor will it likely ever be again, your father’s (and definitely not your grandfather’s) tour.
They all pay homage to the patron saint of recent golf coolness and brashness, Tiger Woods. But it’s the Woods whose signature video games they played growing up, not the Woods who once laid waste to the pro-golfing landscape, vaporizing all foes in a seemingly long-ago decade.
Between the bold Fowler clothing colors, clearly visible from a fairway away, to Mahan’s ever-present sunglasses, Johnson’s long sideburns, Kim’s growing posse and Watson’s pink shirts and golf shafts, they are easy to spot, hard to forget and memorable for a next generation of golf fans.
It’s the future of golf coming faster than the motorbikes Fowler launched high in the air on a California dirt track while
Here’s an insider’s look at the young guns of the 2011 PGA Tour.
He was raised in Los Angeles, schooled in Palm Springs, Calif., attended the University of Oklahoma, and now lives in Dallas. Kim has built a well-traveled circle of experiences in his brief golfing career, but one constant has been a brash confidence backed by stellar play, not to mention the off-course activities backed up by questions about his dedication.
Kim, 26, doesn’t question either assertion, but he has no doubt where he’s heading in his career. “I know for myself personally that the sky is the limit if I just keep grinding away and have a good attitude,” he says.
He has already won three PGA Tour events, but he was slowed in 2010 with thumb surgery. Even while rehabbing his injury, the allegations of off-course partying with his four longtime buddies who are his Dallas roommates have not stopped.
“I take it as a compliment, because people obviously think I have enough talent and ability to win golf tournaments and still have a good time. At the end of the day, I’m still about winning golf tournaments — and that’s all that matters,” he says. “A lot of the stories are completely overblown. They are half ridiculous. I’m not even in the same state as the story. At times my focus has lacked. I haven’t practiced every day. I’ve come from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. But I’m always trying to learn from the game.”
Kim, whose parents are Korean, says his carefree lifestyle stems from moving from Los Angles at age 16 to Palm Springs, where he lived without a lot of adult supervision. He attended school and practiced golf, heavy on the latter, and oftentimes, he only saw his family when they visited on weekends.
“A lot of us younger guys have a different background. Whatever background you come from, show them that side, and more people will be drawn to that and pick up the game. Nobody doesn’t want to be cool. The consensus is, people do things because it’s cool and they want to be cool. If we could make golf a little bit younger, more appealing to the public, why not?” he asks.
Despite the publicized setbacks, Kim is confident his brash golfing talent will still carry the day.
“I want the career I’m going to have. My future is still very bright.”