A funny thing has happened in the post-Tiger Woods era.
Golf no longer has a superstar. Instead, it has about 30. Maybe more.
The 29th player on the PGA Tour's money list coming out of the year's final major, the PGA Championship, is Rickie Fowler.
Fowler is ranked seventh in the world. He hasn't won a tournament in 2016, but he could beat any of the top three players on the money list -- Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott -- at any time.
Jordan Spieth turned 23 two weeks ago. He's won seven times in two years, including two major championships, and earned $16 million since the start of 2015. But there about two dozen other players out there who size up Spieth and figure they can take him down every week.
No one looks at Spieth, or the 29-year-old Day -- the world's top-ranked player -- or Rory McIlroy, who has won four majors, and predicts a Woods-like run at Jack Nicklaus record of 18 career victories in golf's biggest tournaments.
And that's OK. It's more than OK. It's a good thing.
In the decade or so since Woods was in his prime, mowing down fields on a near-weekly basis, golf has evolved. The intimidation factor that was part of Woods' overall mystique no longer exists.
It's been replaced by uncertainty. A good kind of uncertainty.
The kind of uncertainty that made it possible for Jimmy Walker to outduel Day at Baltusrol last weekend, despite Day hitting an eerily Tiger-esque shot into the par-5 18th, a 257-yard two-iron that he staked, then drained the eagle putt to get within a shot of Walker, who was playing one hole behind.
Walker, who has for stretches of his career toiled on the Web.com Tour while trying to earn back his PGA Tour card, calmly made par on the final hole to earn his first major win.
He became the fourth first-time major champ this year, only the fifth time that's happened.
The unprecedented depth of talent -- which stretches from the top of the money list well into the 40s -- is one reason the tour has never been healthier.
Coming out of Baltusrol, 90 players had won more than $1 million in 2016, and 18 had won at least $3 million. At one point last season, the PGA Tour had a different winner in 19 straight tournaments. Contrast that to Woods' heyday, when he held the world's No. 1 ranking for 281 consecutive weeks over a five-year period.
Parity isn't always fun to watch. It can reward the seemingly undeserving, as when a sub-. 500 team wins an NFL division title.
Some fans and golf writers have argued golf needs a Goliath to be chased every week by a field of Davids. Or at least a two-man show, as it had in the days of Arnie-and-Jack.
One of the best parts of sports is not knowing what's going to happen next. Golf has that now, maybe more of it than ever.
If that makes it a little less appealing for the marginally-interested fan, the one who once tuned in or turned out to watch Woods run roughshod over the competition, so be it.
For the rest of us, it's never been better.
This article was written by John Dudley from Erie Times-News, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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