The Age of Tiger Talking Annika

By Brian HewittMay 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
These days in golf there are 31 flavors. And were not talking about ice cream.
 
Tiger Woods, the undisputed best player in the game is 31 years old.
 
Zach Johnson, the current Masters champion who backed his jacket up with a victory in Atlanta earlier this month, is 31 years old.
 
Rory Sabbatini, unafraid to challenge Woods publicly and victorious Sunday at Colonial in Texas, is 31 years old.
 
Henrik Stenson, the highest-rated European (No. 7) in the Official World Golf Ranking and a winner at the prestigious WGC-Accenture Match Play earlier this year, is 31 years old.
 
Is this is a coincidence?
 
The answer, according to my theory, is that it is not.
 
Woods ambushed his elders when he turned pro in 1996 and players like Ernie Els (now 37), Phil Mickelson (37 next month), and Davis Love III (43) never really recovered from Woods instant success. (Obviously Mickelson hasnt suffered too much, having won two of the last four Masters and the 2005 PGA.)
 
The younger top players'read: Sergio Garcia (27), Adam Scott (26), and Charles Howell III (27) just to name a few'only know Woods as a kind of golfing god.
 
But his contemporaries, the guys his own age, have been aware of Tiger for a long time. Many of them competed against him when they were youngsters. They recognize how good he is. But they have known no other condition of competition other than Woods being the guy they had to beat to win meaningful titles.
 
Vaughn Taylor, a Ryder Cupper and two-time PGA TOUR winner, is also 31 years old. So is Hank Kuehne, an immense talent who hasnt blossomed as a professional mainly because of injuries and personal problems.
 
When I ran this theory past Morris Pickens, Johnsons mental coach, he didnt shoot it down. But, he warned, Any time anybody has success with Tiger, it is only temporary.
 
THE CHASE RESUMES:
There isnt any doubt in the mind of LPGA Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth that Annika Sorenstam will one day catch'and pass'her on the all-time victory list.
 
Whitworth won 88 times. Sorenstam trails by 19. Its just a question of when, Whitworth told me this week.
 
Amazingly, Whitworth never missed a tournament due to injury during her career. She turned pro at 19 and won for the first time at age 22 at the 1962 Kelly Girls Open. Her last victory, the 1985 United Virginia Bank Classic, came at the age of 45. For her part, the 36-year-old Sorenstam is returning from back and neck problems this week at the Ginn Tribute. Whitworth says she does not see Sorenstam slowing down.
 
Whitworth also says she has never talked about the record with Sorenstam. But, she says, she will be rooting for Annika. There is nothing wrong, Whitworth says, with being someones motivation.
 
This is especially heartening to hear at a time when Barry Bonds is chasing Hank Aarons home record in baseball while controversy surrounds Bonds and frost dances from Aarons mouth every time somebody asks him about Bonds.
 
NOTHING SPECIAL:
If you were waiting for the USGA to announce its special exemptions into next months U.S. Open at Oakmont, you can stop holding your breath.
 
There wont be any this year.
 
No specials last year either, said USGA Executive Director David Fay. As is the case each year, the decision was made after developing a list of those who were not already exempt.
 
One player who deserved consideration was Loren Roberts, still highly-competitive on the Champions Tour at the tender age of 51. Roberts, you may remember was one of three players in the 1994 U.S. Open playoff at Oakmont won by Ernie Els.
 
On the other hand, judging from reports on the golf courses severity emanating almost daily from Oakmont, maybe Roberts is glad he wasnt asked.
 
LIGHTS OUT:
Starting with the final four holes of his second round at Colonial last week and counting the first 14 holes of his third round, eventual winner Rory Sabbatini needed just 17 putts in that 18-hole stretch.
 
NOTES:
The longest putt made on the PGA TOUR this year measured 100 feet and one inch. It was canned by Ben Curtis at THE PLAYERS on the 14th hole. There have been 105 putts of 50 feet or more made on the PGA TOUR this year.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.