Spieth’s emergence a timely dose of new blood

Golf needs future stars as current crop turning gray

Jordan Spieth waves to the crowd on the 18th hole during the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday. Tom Pennington / AFP
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Everybody likes to be the first in their sporting clique to identify blossoming prospects. Be it football, tennis, cricket or Formula One, we scan the horizon for the Next Big Thing.

At age 20, Jordan Spieth has the shots, poise and inner fire to ascend golf’s corporate ladder in a hurry. After turning professional 14 months ago, the Texan earned the 2013 PGA Tour top-rookie award and finished second last weekend in Hawaii, leaping to No 17 in the world rankings.

While golf careers often seem to come without an expiry date, young talent in the developmental pipeline feels unusually sparse. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, 21, has climbed to No 23 since turning pro last April; Matteo Manassero, 20, has four wins in Europe; and, of course, Rory McIlroy, 24, has already reached world No 1.

But the stars are going grey, with some losing their hair altogether.

Tiger Woods celebrated his 38th birthday two weeks ago and has not won a major in six years. Phil Mickelson turns 45 this summer, as will Jim Furyk, who has not won in four years. Steve Stricker, 46, is semi-retired.

The Englishmen Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, all 36 or older, failed to win last year on the two major tours. The meter maid is circling.

It makes the performance of newbies such as Spieth, rated by some as the most promising American golfer since Woods, even more crucial, because the game needs an infusion of youth and some fresh storylines.