Game entering new era say Stenson, Poulter
Shanghai: Golf is entering a new era, according to stars Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter, with one player unlikely to dominate in the way Tiger Woods did during his prime.
Injury-plagued Woods won the last of his fourteen majors six years ago and the sport`s subsequent top prizes have been shared between 19 different players.
Only four golfers have won more than one major since the American`s triumph at the 2008 US Open -- Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson, who won his second green jacket earlier this month.
There have been 15 first-time major winners in that period.
The statistics are in sharp contrast to Woods who won three majors in the year 2000 alone before winning at Augusta in 2001 to complete the "Tiger Slam".
"I think golf`s changed a lot," world number three Stenson said Wednesday ahead of the Volvo China Open in Shenzhen.
"The last five years we have seen so many different players winning major championships.
"With these young guys coming through and playing so well it`s going to be very very difficult to be as dominant as Tiger was in the early 2000`s when he was winning most of his championships."
Woods spent much of the early and mid nineties as world number one before a scandal over his private life and a number of injuries saw him plummet down the standings and drop out of the top 50.
He slowly worked his way back and reached the top spot early last year but an injury which forced him to miss the Masters for the first time in 20 years has raised questions about whether he will ever match Jack Nicklaus`s haul of 18 major titles.
Woods` return date is uncertain and it`s not clear whether he will be fit enough to play in the second major of the season -- the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in June.
"Obviously for golf everybody wants the best player in the last two decades to play as many events as he possibly can," Poulter told reporters in China.
"It`s a shame he`s injured. I`m sure he`s disappointed. I`m sure the sponsors are disappointed. I`m sure some of the TV ratings are going to be disappointing.
"You look at what he`s done for golf. The guy has played some phenomenal golf.
"Will he get back to his best? I don`t know. I don`t know how severe his injury is."
Woods` last major win came despite playing with a bad knee that later required surgery -- a fact Poulter was quick to suggest showed that the world number one should not be written off yet.
"Tiger`s not getting any younger. He`s picking up niggling injuries but he doesn`t have to be at his best to be able to compete and win golf tournaments.
"As he has proven year in, year out he can win tournaments from any position in any fit state," the Englishman said at the Genzon Golf Club.
"When he`s back healthy he will be winning golf tournaments again but whether he reaches his best I`m not sure."
Poulter said double major winner McIlroy, 24, and young American hotshot Jordan Spieth, who led during the final round at Augusta, may be the players to take on Woods` mantle.
They are "very young, very good and maybe they will push those boundaries," he said.