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Is golf just a young man's game?

Cast your mind back to the last time you saw a golfer on a news website, beaming as he or she holds a trophy aloft. Chances are they were young, and we're not talking 'recently married with a mortgage and growing family' young but the kind of young that might have just skipped a uni lecture because they're still in bed. Unlike tennis, which has recently seen the resurgence of the thirty-somethings with Federer and Nadal both scoring tour victories, golf appears to be heading in the other direction, with three of the four major victors this season south of 28. Nowadays in the world of golf it seems the kids are alright.

Bad news for Rory McIlroy, who is currently sitting directly on that divide, but does encroaching age signal an inevitable spiral into golfing obscurity? Hardly. 

Rory's appearance in the North-East this week might be a surprise one given his withdrawal from last week's World Tour (won by Xander Schauffele, 23, after reining in Paul Casey, 17 years his senior on the final day) through injury, but those creaking 28 year old bones will once again, tee off as tournament favourite.

Indeed, hardly a tournament seems to go by nowadays that doesn't see Rory as the punters' top pick, and quite rightly so. Despite dropping to World number six, McIlroy is absolutely flush with talent, creativity and the ability to play with a freedom not seen since an all-conquering Tiger prowled the fairways. Throw in his ability to accurately thrash a golf ball a ridiculous distance and on his day, he's unplayable. Whether he's able to combine all three at Close House this weekend remains tBritish Masters hopeful Justin Roseo be seen.
McIlroy aside, let's look at the rest of the field, their respective ages on the golfing spectrum and their chances of a Sunday victory.
The champions of 2015 and 2016 will return to the tournament, looking to reclaim their titles and the £3 million prize money. Matthew Fitzpatrick ran out tournament winner two years ago at the age of 21, but despite being firmly in 'Team Youngster' he has failed to make his mark in the Majors, a tied-seventh place at the Masters representing his best efforts. 34 year old Alex Noren was another player north of the age divide who conquered the rest of the pack last year. He'll be hoping his British Masters crown stays firmly perched above his golf cap. 

Another headliner at Close House this weekend is reigning Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, who at the ripe old age of 37 remains one of the game's most consistent performers. He's spent over 400 weeks in the world top 10 during his long career but only achieved his highest world ranking (2nd) after the age of 28. The Spaniard is an absolute certainty to draw the Newcastle crowds and will fancy his chances of claiming victory on Sunday, although he may have to take his Green Jacket off first. Fellow 37 year old Justin Rose is a former British Master who also won't be far from many people's minds when he tees off on Thursday. Like Garcia, the Brit has become one of golf's Mr Reliables and arrives at Close House off the back of another impressive season, finishing runner-up to Garcia at Augusta in April.
So now to the extremes. In the continued absence of the American Tiger, this week a British one will take his place. At the age of 16 and one week, Robin Tiger Williams will be the youngest player in the pack and although it's not impossible to think his will be the triumphant face on the back pages of the newspapers come Monday morning, he'll struggle to feature in even the most romantic golf fan's pre-tournament picks. Neither will one of golf's golden oldies and the British Masters' oldest player, Miguel Angel Jimenez. As ever, spectators will be able to track the 53 year old's progress this weekend by following his trademark cigar smoke down the fairways but are unlikely to see him in a podium finish - his most recent in the Majors coming way back in 2001.

Does this tell us that Robin Tiger Williams should go back to the driving range or Jimenez should put away his Cuban? Not exactly because after all, age is just a number but expect those north of 28 to shine through the Tyne fog this weekend.