Forties can be tough to fathom for pro golfers

By Damon HackOctober 25, 2012, 8:57 pm

For his 40th birthday Padraig Harrington received a vintage Coca-Cola machine, and he can talk your ears off about its charms.

The machine takes quarters – as any good vintage item should - and apparently dispenses the iciest-cold bottles you’ve ever tasted.

But ask Harrington about the significance of his 40th birthday and one of the most talkative players on the PGA Tour grows quiet.

“Nothing,” Harrington, now 41, said of the birthday milestone during the Byron Nelson Championship. “Nothing at all.”

But? But?

“Nothing,” he said, eyes narrowing.

Harrington is hardly the only golfer to look askance at a philosophical discussion of the aging golfer. The topic lives on the fairways and greens of the professional game but also in sports as a whole. (Who doesn’t recall the story of Willie Mays falling down in the outfield as an ancient member of the New York Mets?)

So what are we to make of the golfer past 40?

Does “40 as the new 30” apply to the professional golfer? Who can know for sure?

On Bermuda on Wednesday, Harrington held off a younger trio of Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf for the first time.

But three days earlier, forty-somethings Davis Love III (tee shot into the water), David Toms (tee shot into a bunker) and Jim Furyk (tee shot left of the green) each failed to chase down Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey down the stretch at The McGladrey Classic.

Were those nervous golf swings by fading champions or was that just golf?

People have forever pointed to Jack Nicklaus’ win at the 1986 Masters at age 46 as proof that older players can still do magic. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open at age 52, the oldest winner in PGA Tour history. Tom Watson’s near victory at 59 at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry provided further evidence that winning tournaments with salt and pepper is not farfetched.

But are Nicklaus, Snead and Watson exceptions or the rule? And, besides, aren’t they three of the greatest players of all time?

Tiger Woods often points to Nicklaus (and now Watson) as evidence that he has plenty of time to surpass Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championships, but history says he’d better hurry.

Only 36 of the last 423 major championships (dating back to 1860) have been won by forty-somethings, the last two being Darren Clarke at the 2011 Open Championship and Ernie Els at the 2012 Open Championship.

Woods’s golfing gifts are all-time, but that does not mean winning majors in his 40s will be a slam dunk. 

At the 2010 Transitions Championship I posed the question to Jim Furyk about soon turning 40, neither of us knowing he would win that tournament and two more besides, claiming the FedEx Cup title and Player of the Year award at the season’s end.

“I feel a lot of it has to do with the fire and the want and desire to want to play,” Furyk said then. “You get a lot of guys when they get in their mid 40s, family becomes more important. They’ve got other business and other things going on and golf takes a back seat and it makes it a lot harder to compete. I definitely am not planning on retiring any time in the next few years. When I decide it’s time I’d like to be able to do it because I want to do it, not because I have to.”

Two years after winning Player of the Year, Furyk found himself in contention all season long, losing in a playoff at the Transitions, hitting a hook into the trees at The Olympic Club, and handing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to Keegan Bradley after making a mess of the 18th hole.

Furyk hit some wonderful shots at the Ryder Cup, but his missed putts will be all that’s remembered.

Surely, the desire was there but maybe the nerves were, too.

At 48, Kenny Perry said a poor chip on the 17th hole on Sunday of the 2009 Masters might have cost him a green jacket.

“I can’t stop my right hand when I get a little nervous,” he said then. “It wants to shoot a little bit and I can’t calm it down.”

Vijay Singh has won 22 times after turning 40 (including a major, the 2004 PGA Championship) but how many forty-somethings can match him for talent and work ethic?

These are the questions that dominate golf and sports. We don’t know when the winning will stop, only that it does for everyone. It is why Harrington’s smile was so wide in Bermuda and why Furyk’s face was pained in Sea Island.  

In a game of many mysteries, the 40s provide no certainties.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.