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.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: