According to Golf Digest, a 2016 study of golf participation by the National Golf Foundation, found that the number of beginning golfers had grown to 2.5 million, a record. Nearly a third of the 2.9 million junior golfers last year were girls, nearly twice the number 20 years ago. And more than a quarter of all junior golfers are non-Caucasian, a fourfold increase from 1995.
As the Tour Championship gets underway Thursday without three headlining players, what better time to recognize that rumors of the sport’s demise are premature? The game appears healthier than the 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, who was limited to one official tour start this season because of a chronic back injury, his misery compounded by a mismanagement of medications. It is healthier than Rory McIlroy, the defending FedEx Cup champion, who never rebounded from an early-season rib injury and who failed to advance to the Tour Championship’s 30-man field at East Lake Golf Club. It is hale enough to survive the absence this week of Phil Mickelson, the perennial fan favorite whose closing surge could not make up for his midseason dip in form.