This is what the world rankings looked like five years ago and in brackets are where those players are now..
Time will be the undoing of most players, maybe starting a family will have an effect, perhaps the quest to change your swing or add some length to keep up with the modern game. Then you have Jordan Spieth who enjoyed one of the greatest years ever in 2015 and, had a handful of shots gone the other way, then we might have seen him complete what even Tiger never managed in pulling off the Grand Slam.
He’s still only 27, has been married two years and the swing is much the same, in appearance at least. In all the big Strokes Gained stats he was hardly out of the top 10 five years ago. Now, other than Around The Green, he barely manages to threaten the top 100. Even his putting, which was one of the wonders of the modern game, sees him in 105th spot.
Last year he told the No Laying Up podcast that his ‘alignment got off because my eyes were not seeing where the putter blade was actually pointed and therefore I couldn’t trust it’.
It seems that that has seeped into the rest of his game. Another easy conclusion is that the 12th hole at Augusta in 2016 has had a huge knock-on effect - Francesco Molinari has said a similar thing about his demise at the same hole last year and how it has affected his confidence. Maybe all the never-ending questions over that have played a big part though the way he came back to win the Open at Birkdale suggests that he is something a bit special rather than the flash in the pan, albeit a quite brilliant one for a time, that many are quick to point out these days.
Every player has dips, Tiger Woods has been the most consistent and brilliant player of his generation but there have been obvious dips. Lee Westwood was written off 20 years ago after his game disappeared for a while, he would go on to become the World No.1. In 2010 Sergio Garcia said that he would turn down a wild card for the Ryder Cup such was the state of his game, come 2018 he would become the record points scorer ever in the competition having won the Masters the year before.
Brooks Koepka won four of the eight majors that he played in and now people see him as a bit of a busted flush with a dodgy knee. A few months ago Bryson DeChambeau put together one of the most brilliant major performances, then last week he was the butt of everyone’s jokes.
At the US Open Spieth shot rounds of 73-81 around Winged Foot and there wasn’t a lot of cause for optimism.
“There's a lot that's off. I'm not really sure. If I knew, I'd fix it. So I'm kind of just working through it and looking forward to having a little more time off to figure it out. I'm late behind it. The second I try to get back out in front of, it's hooking.
Standing on a tee at the US Open and not exactly knowing where the ball is going to go is not a great feeling. But I'll grind it out. I don't ever give up. I have no reason to. I'm here. I feel that, even with not having much tee to green, I can somehow still shoot an even or under par round on this course, and that's incredible self-belief in the grind.”
Spieth, you would imagine, will work it out. He’s never had the prettiest of swings or the greatest of length but he’s a grinder and he will get the absolute most out of his rounds.
Even when he rinsed two balls at Augusta and his mind was whirring about he still managed to birdie two of the next three holes. At this year’s Masters he came back on Saturday morning with eight holes left to play of his second round which meant teeing off at the 11th. He would horseshoe out for par and was suitably irritated.
At 17 he got up and down from sand to save par and, after crashing into the trees at the last, he battered a fairway wood up to the side of 18 and holed from 10 feet for his four and to make the cut on the number.
The easy way of thinking now is that Dustin Johnson is going to rule the waves for the foreseeable future and there’s no reason why he won’t dominate the game. Some have suggested even like Tiger.
Golf doesn’t work like that though, just ask Jordan Spieth.