CHICAGO -- Perhaps one sunny day in 2020, Dustin Johnson will turn to Keegan Bradley as they stroll up the 18th fairway at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., and smile.
Nearby, maybe it's Webb Simpson and Brendan Steele ringing the 18th green, preparing to celebrate a U.S. victory over Team Europe in this future Ryder Cup.
Any picture is possible on that picturesque course. And nine years offers plenty of twists and turns for any career to take, particularly in such a fickle sport. But if 2011 has proven anything as the PGA Tour arrives at Cog Hill for this weekend's BMW Championship, it's that myriad U.S.-born 20-somethings have arrived -- for now.
In this Tiger-free zone, plenty of young players have risen to the challenge and shown their stripes.
"It's great to see American golf have good young players," said Phil Mickelson, a veritable graybeard at 41. "For awhile there, we were taking some hits. As player you see this talent, and I'm glad to see it start coming out."
Consider: Bradley, 25, has won twice, including a breakthrough victory at the PGA Championship. Johnson, 27, is this tournament's defending champion and won The Barclays in late August. Steele, 28, won April's Valero Texas Open, one of a record six rookies to prevail on tour this season. And Simpson, 26, has won two of the last three starts to vault atop the FedExCup standings as the playoff moves toward its $10 million prize.
In all, 14 players in their 20s have accounted for 16 victories this season, including 10 Americans who have produced 12 titles. Eight rookies are in this weekend's 70-player field, as compared to two a year ago.
"It's a cool thing for golf because it seems like the better players are getting younger and younger," Simpson said. "The last few years watching the guys who were my age or just older win golf tournaments, it pushed me to want to get to that level.
"You're sitting back and watching them play in the biggest tournaments that the game has to offer and the competitor inside you wants to be in those tournaments and competing against those guys."
Indeed, this youth movement includes foreign-born stars like Charl Schwartzel, the Masters champion who is here, and U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, who is not. Bradley's victory at the Atlanta Athletic Club snapped an American drought of six straight majors since Phil Mickelson won the Masters in 2010.
"I know it was bugging us," Bradley said.
Woods' health and personal issues obviously helped create this opportunity. But to hear Bradley tell it, Woods aided the storyline in another way.
"I think a lot of our success has to do with Tiger's influence on us," the PGA champion said. "We all watched his dominance and wanted to win as much as he did."
Bradley, who said he's still buzzing about his major triumph, also credited the Nationwide tour for preparing he and his fellow young players for the mental and physical grinds ahead. Now, those grinds have given way to success.
"We talk about it a little among ourselves," Steele said. "We think it's kind of cool for us to all go through the same thing together and have as much success as we've had. I'm sure we'll look back on it pretty fondly in the future. Hopefully, we'll all be out here for a long time and can kind of reminisce one day to way back when."
Maybe even at Whistling Straits in 2020.