The next genuine rival is probably still an amateur

Andy Farrell views a new generation preparing to challenge the accepted order

What is the most significant tournament coming up in the next month? The US PGA Championship, where Tiger Woods will be attempting to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major championships in the same year, is one, certainly. The NEC World Invitational, in which Woods will be looking to claim the $1m (£645,000) first prize, as he did last year, is another.

What is the most significant tournament coming up in the next month? The US PGA Championship, where Tiger Woods will be attempting to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major championships in the same year, is one, certainly. The NEC World Invitational, in which Woods will be looking to claim the $1m (£645,000) first prize, as he did last year, is another.

But in the light of Woods' annexation of both the US Open and The Open, the Eisenhower Trophy - otherwise known as the Men's World Amateur Team Championship - could be where some of the players to challenge the current world No 1 will be found.

Great Britain and Ireland actually hold the title after their victory in Chile two years ago. Their squad for this year's competition, to be played at the end of August, spent last week at the Berlin Sporting Club. Luke Donald, now 22, who contributed to the victory in Chile, is joined by the English champion Paul Casey, Jamie Donaldson, from Wales, and Scotland's Steven O'Hara.

Donald, the NCAA champion last year, and Casey have been stars of the college circuit in America for the past two years. Charles Howell, this season's NCAA winner, will not be on hand for the Americans since he has quit college and already turned professional. As has Australia's Adam Scott, who has had a number of top-10 finishes in Europe this summer, both before and after leaving the amateur ranks.

Scott's decision actually solved a problem for the Australian selectors, as did Brett Rumford's departure from the amateur game. Rumford won on the Australasian Tour last winter, one of three amateurs to do so. Aaron Baddeley, who won the Australian Open aged 18, and Brad Lamb were the others, and are joined in Australia's team by Scot Gardner and Andrew Webster. The last two could be the best of the lot.

Just 20, Scott has certainly impressed. Tall and naturally athletic, he has a swing startlingly reminiscent of Tiger's. In fact Scott, who dropped out of college in Las Vegas to concentrate on golf full-time, is coached by Tiger's guru, Butch Harmon.

These young Aussies have both dedication and desire. When the 22-year-old Rumford won, he said it was the reward for working six hours a day on his game. After Baddeley's victory, achieved against the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman, he said: "I want to be better than Tiger. Tiger is the benchmark and I want to be better than the benchmark."

Baddeley is from Melbourne, where the Victoria Sports Institute is leading the way in preparing young golfers to perform at maximum efficiency. "We take a holistic approach," said Dale Lynch, the head coach. "We don't just coach technique, but sports psychology as well as every other aspect, including how to handle the media. It's the whole package." Players, who are encouraged to travel, can e-mail videos of their swing back to the centre from around the world. They are instructed in sports science, nutrition and how to survive jet-lag.

Lee Westwood said recently that he is not an athlete, he is a professional golfer. Woods is both. If hisfather had not been obsessed about golf, his son might have been concentrating on a date in Sydney later this year rather than savouring the twin triumphs of Pebble Beach and St Andrews.

The desire and dedication of players such as Westwood, Darren Clarke, Montgomerie, Ernie Els and David Duval is not in question. They have striven, and continue to strive, to be the best they can. It is just that the benchmark at the critical stage of their careers was not nearly as high as it is now. As Nick Faldo said, oh to be 15 years of age again. Yet for those who feel the game has suddenly changed out of all recognition, it is worth remembering that it is only a few months since the 37-year-old Vijay Singh won the Masters.

That there has not been a competitive element to the closing stages of Woods' last two epics should not cloud the brilliance of his performances. One of the most important aspects of his victory at St Andrews was particularly lacking in televisual impact. Those who played the Old Course on Monday morning, when ironically there was a healthy wind blowing for the first time in five days, and proceeded to three-putt almost every green, could appreciate the magnificence of Tiger's long-range putting on those huge, undulating surfaces.

Can one player be too good for the game? It was only in the mid-Nineties that there was a run of 15 different players winning 15 consecutive majors, and the game was not getting the attention it is now. Not even Woods can win every week he plays. But there is no doubt his next objective, having won all four of the major championships once, is to hold them all at the same time. That grand-slam dunk might arrive as early as Augusta next April.

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