Two listens are worth your time if you love basketball and golf. Both have helped me better realize why golf's recent explosion of young talent is so impressive: Charles Barkley discusses the demise of fundamentally sound players driving down the quality of NBA basketball (with Bill Simmons), and Roy Williams venting about ESPN deeming "Green Room" caliber players and further damaging the already beleaguered college basketball.
As you know from reading here or hearing us talk on Morning Drive, the age minimum for males winning a significant pro golf tournament has seemingly dropped from late 20s to early 20's. A number of players have been able to seal the deal at an age that was almost an unthinkable winning age in pro golf not long ago.
No one knows the exact cause of this youth onslaught, but some mix of technology, coaching, physical fitness, junior golf, college golf, social media, worldliness and access to equipment has played a role. While this could be a phase and some of the hype is driven by marketers hoping to appeal to ad buyers desiring millennial-friendly enterprises, there does appear to be a paradigm shift. (Though I will always insist golf is at its best when players of varied ages populate a leaderboard.)
Contrast the state of golf with college basketball, where leading voices continue to lament the skill decline of young players.
Charles Barkley discusses this with Bill Simmons on last week's podcast. As with all things Barkley, it's a fantastic listen if you love college hoops or the NBA.
And then there was legendary coach Roy Williams, wheeling out countless golf analogies in his weekly North Carolina press conference before shifting to a rant about ESPN and their use of the "Green Room" label to discuss certain NBA Lottery-caliber players. Williams makes pretty clear that his sport is damaged by its television partner viewing their game merely as a stepping stone to the NBA.
Here is the short version related to the Green Room rant from The Big Lead, though some of you will enjoy (and question) his golf analogies in the full press conference.
I highlight this contrast between basketball and golf because,
(A) it should make you feel better about golf's youth movement if you were understandably uneasy about the rush to anoint young people the next great things, and
(B) it's a cautionary tale for golf if there becomes an insistence on pushing young players too far with silly Green Room-like labels instead of allowing the players to evolve naturally or accepting that not everyone matures quickly, and
(C) both listens are about a sport viewed as in great shape, yet here are two of the most respect minds in that sport openly lamenting the quality of play just as we've seen in golf. The difference is, golf's youth rush has been more organic and the star status earned by the players thanks to their playing prowess.