Glory Past 40

By David Marr IiiNovember 5, 2003, 5:00 pm
When a good idea is cross-pollinated with hard work and fortuitous timing, the result is invariably successful. Such is the case with the UBS Cup.

Created to showcase world-class professionals over the age of 40 in an international team competition, the event is in position to capitalize on the remarkable success of golfers who find their 30s are in the rear view mirror. This year alone, 10 players in the age group have won 14 PGA Tour events. Which begs the age-old question - what years define a golfers competitive prime?

If you take Bobby Jones as an example, it would seem that youth prevails. For most of the 20th century Jones was considered the Greatest golfer of all time. He won his first major championship at the age of 21, then retired seven years later after winning 11 more.

Jones early exit makes him an incomplete case study. But a look at the next Greatest, Jack Nicklaus gives the fullest possible example of a championship career.

Jones tournament career was atypical due to its brevity, as was the Golden Bears longevity. No champion has ever been able to sustain competitive excellence for as many years as Nicklaus. By the age of 29 Nicklaus had won seven majors and the career slam, but his 30s defined Nicklaus as a champion. At 30 he won the Open Championship, in America known at the British Open, at St. Andrews which started a run of 33 majors with eight wins, seven runner-up finishes, 25 top-fives and only twice out of the top 10. His worst finish was tied for 13th.

Along the way, he finished his second and third laps around the career slam. At 40 Nicklaus won two more majors, and his Masters win at 46 is still recalled by many golf fans as their favorite moment in major championship golf.

Not all great champions have started fast, however. Fifty years ago, Ben Hogan won all three majors in which he competed. He was 41 years old in 1953, having won his first major in his mid-30s. Hogan was a late bloomer whose career was interrupted by a serious car accident after he had won three of his nine career majors. Even taking into account his recuperation, Hogans prime has to be considered from the ages of 34 through 42.

Traditionally a player in peak form needs to be young enough to possess the athleticism required for a solid, powerful swing, and mature enough to have gained the experience to handle all the vagaries of the game. Mental toughness and course management are vital to a players score, and typically these traits take a good deal of time to develop on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods breathtaking emergence on the PGA Tour mirrors the early success of Jones and Nicklaus, but only time will tell what ages define his prime.

While the Tiger Effect on tour has created a false sense of youthful domination, another trend has developed. Players who have gained the necessary experience and maturity through years of competition are now more able to maintain the youthful athleticism needed for the physical execution of the game. Diet and fitness have enabled players to retain flexibility and stamina, while equipment tailored to a players game has helped reduce the negative effects of an aging swing. The proof lies in the results on tour this year.

The season started with players in their late 30s winning events and players in their 40s like Jay Haas and John Huston contending late Sunday afternoons. March opened with 47-year-old Scott Hoch winning at Doral, and a 40-something golfer would win at least one event per month for the rest of the year. In April, 43-year-old Fred Couples won in his collegiate hometown of Houston. The months of May, June and July saw victories by Kenny Perry. The soft-spoken 42-year-old from Kentucky claimed such important titles as The Bank of America Colonial and The Memorial, but it was the two weeks following Perrys win in Milwaukee that defined this season for the over-40 crowd.

At the B.C. Open, 50-year-old Craig Stadler entered the final round tied for ninth, eight shots behind 42-year-old Steve Lowery. Stadler birdied four of his first five and surged to a one-shot win. The victory made Stadler the only man ever to win a PGA Tour event as a fulltime member of the Champions Tour. It was his first win since 1996, and the very next week Peter Jacobsen claimed his first title since 1995 at the Greater Hartford Open.

Kirk Triplett represented the group in August with a win in Reno, while September saw four players in their 40s take home trophies in consecutive weeks. One of the tours oldest stops was decided by a playoff between 44-year-old Bob Tway and 42-year-old Brad Faxon as Tway ended his 8-year drought. J.L. Lewis and Tommy Armour III went back-to-back in late September after Vijay Singh had won his second event of the year as a 40-year-old, and his third overall. John Huston started October right with a win at the Southern Farm Bureau. It was the ninth win by a 40-something golfer in 13 weeks.

Youngsters may still dominate the endorsement deals and TV coverage, but this year experienced players have proven their mettle.

As the UBS Cup matures, so does the level of play enjoyed by its participants. No age group in the game has experienced a resurgence like the 40-something golfers this year. Their competitive level may be the story of the year on the PGA Tour, and it is certain to provide the UBS Cup with all the excitement and excellence golf fans have come to expect from superior international team competitions.
 
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • UBS Cup - TV Airtimes
  • UBS Cup - Full Coverage
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry