Monday, December 20
The future of golf
By Greg Robertson

 It may have been 1999, but golf fans got a glimpse of the 21st century a year early. The beginnings of a global tour, huge increases in purses and disappearing stars are just part of the future of golf.

 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods will no doubt be a main part of golf in the next century.

The World Golf Championships made their debut in 1999 with three events featuring players from tours around the world. In 2001, it will increase to four. As the 21st century moves forward, that number could become 52 as the best players in the world begin to compete against each other on a regular basis.

When the Million Dollar Challenge began in the early '90s, it was the only tournament offering a $1 million purse to the winner. In 1999, there were four such events -- and more are on the way.

Big purses lead to big paydays for the top players, which leads to fans seeing less of the biggest stars. In 1999, Fred Couples played just 16 official events; Ernie Els played 18; Greg Norman played 12. That will become more and more the case as the new century rolls around.

The big purses could also shorten careers. Will the young stars currently roaming the PGA Tour continue to play beyond their prime? If Tiger Woods becomes the career money leader before his 30th birthday, will he hang around? That's not likely. Don't count on any of the current crop of players to be ambassadors for the game like Arnold Palmer.

As for the game itself, equipment will continue to improve, players will hit the ball farther and farther, courses will become longer and longer, and scores will remain about the same.

Why? One simple fact hasn't changed over the past 100 years: Drive for show, putt for dough. Golf will remain a game determined by chipping and putting.

Why think that's going to change.

Greg Robertson is the golf editor at ESPN Golf Online