Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open on Sunday, finishing at 16-under to tie Rory McIlroy for the lowest score in Open history. It was his first major win, which is something golf has seen a lot of in recent years.
In fact, over the last 18 majors, dating back to 2013, golf has produced 16 different winners with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy serving as the only multi-major champions.
With such parity, who is the face of golf in 2017?
“Well, it depends on the day,” Sports Illustrated & Golf.com’s Jeff Ritter said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Today, it was Rickie Fowler or maybe Steve Stricker. Those were the loudest crowds that I heard today. I think Phil Mickelson is still a huge star and is widely admired and popular anywhere he goes, and I still think if he were to come back and play competitive golf again, I think Tiger is capable of once again taking the mantle as a guy who moves the needle in golf. But right now it’s hard to even know where to put Tiger on a list like that.
“But I think Phil certainly is a superstar,” Ritter continued. “I think there’s a lot of people who connect with Rory McIlroy because he’s a guy who’s very open and honest and candid and he shares his life with fans who follow social media. I think Jason Day has a section of fans. But I think Phil, really from the guys who are out there right now contending, I think maybe it starts with him first.”
While household names create more Sunday buzz, Ritter said there’s nothing quite like the last few holes of a competitive major.
“When you’re inside the ropes at a major championship, it is exciting,” he said. “It’s loud and it’s fun and it’s intense. Fans will yell things at you in between shots and there’s cameramen running around and guys with their notebooks out like I am lingering around – it’s kind of a controlled chaos. To be honest, when you get to Sunday afternoon, sure, it would have been cool if Phil Mickelson had played this week and he was in it. Yeah, it’d be great if a star like Tiger Woods wasn’t going through all his problems and was in it this week. But in the end, you still have a crowd of 30,000 people that really all come together on those closing holes. The galleries are just massive and loud and, in some cases, over-served. It’s fun. I think ultimately the deeper you get into the tournament, it just creates an exciting atmosphere no matter what. We love having stars around, but at th same time, a day like today is when new stars are born.”