MIAMI -- As the Honda Classic came to a close under the first tournament under the PGA Tour's permanently permissive cell phone policy and the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship at Doral dives whole hog into social media, it is a perfect time to check out what is coming:
That would be the PGA's Generation Twitter. And they're cutting into the money and rankings held down exclusively by Generation X and the few remaining Baby Boomers.
"Just the way sports is in general, isn't it?" said Lee Westwood, 37, the No. 2 player in the world. "Sometimes, you see it where you don't think there are any good young players coming through or players from a certain country, then there's a glut of them and they all bring each other on and inspire the next generation to play well."
Now topping the world rankings is 26-year-old Martin Kaymer, who knocked off Westwood by finishing second at the WGC-Accenture Match Play last month. Westwood succeeded the decade-long run at the top of 35-year-old Tiger Woods, who has seemed as dated these days as Thriller and Rumors put together.
Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, 26, won the Bob Hope Classic and tied for third at the Farmers Insurance Open. At the Accenture Match Play, 22-year-old Rickie Fowler dumped 40-year-old Phil Mickelson 6 and 5. That same week, Spencer Levin, a 26-year-old in only his third full PGA season, lost the Mayakoba Golf Classic in a playoff to 30-year-old Johnson Wagner. Dustin Johnson, 26, had four PGA Tour wins in his first three seasons and two top-10 finishes already in his fourth season.
"Everything goes in cycles," 21-year-old Rory McIlroy said. "You had a few years ago, you had Sergio (Garcia), Adam Scott and Justin Rose. Now, we have myself, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson, the younger sort of guys coming through.
"The established guys are always going to be there," McIlroy added. "They're going to play well and give themselves chances to win. But it's great that there are so many young guys coming through and playing good golf."
And don't expect it to end soon, warned Rose, who anticipates an advance in athleticism on the tour from those who have grown up watching Woods.
"Guys are taking up the game, other athletes are probably taking up the game," Rose said. "Other athletes that probably could have chosen basketball or baseball or football, they're probably maybe thinking now golf is cool, golf's much more of a great career choice if you're a great athlete. I don't think we've really seen that generation come through yet.
"I think what we have seen is the generation of the long hitter have much more consistent success out on tour. I think that's probably only going to go that way in the future."
They hit long and tweet short with equal skill when they're not Facebooking or checking news from home. Fowler tees off after tweeting "GOTIME." Rose needled Lucas Glover's beard by comparing it to the Geico caveman.
The PGA Tour's new cell phone policy represents a shift to the norm for an age group who knows BlackBerry or Nokia ring tones the way Gen Xers knew Saturday morning cartoon theme songs.
"The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey I had quite a high-profile group playing with Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson the first two rounds," Rose said. "I didn't have one incident, I didn't hear one cell phone camera click go off. I heard marshals say, 'OK, mobile devices away now, please' from the tee box, which can be more annoying than the people with the phones."
They're comfortable with modern technology's omniscient deep focus, but also golf's aged rules. None had a problem with a TV viewer phoning in a violation unwittingly committed by Camilo Villegas at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Electronics must not change honor. Like Villegas, they felt he should have just been penalized two strokes instead of disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard once the strokes were added retroactively.
Though Westwood is in the established order with Woods, Mickelson, defending Doral champion Ernie Els and others, he welcomes the push from the young.
"Just look at the spectrum, the guys who've been out here a long time to the middle-aged guys like me to the young guys all playing well," Westwood said, laughing. "It's nice to have that comparison because you don't get it in other sports.
"You don't get that in tennis. You don't get a 40-year-old playing against a 21-year-old. I think that's the great thing about golf."