Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch

By George WhiteDecember 23, 2003, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of articles highlighting the top stories of 2003. Check back through the end of the year to see the rest of the list.
2003 Stories of the YearThey are certainly older now, the gray has started to creep in, the waist lines have started to get slightly larger. But - so have the victories. The Year of the Veteran was 2003, a golf season in which no less than a 11 different players over 40 years of age have wins.
Would you like to talk about Vijay Singh, Scott Hoch, Fred Couples or Kenny Perry? How about 50-year-old Craig Stadler or 49-year-old Peter Jacobsen? An old warhorse like Bob Tway or John Huston, someone like Kirk Triplett, or relative unknowns like J.L. Lewis or Tommy Armour III? All won this year, and all are old enough to have grandkids.
In fact there are no grandchildren among the bunch, but their children are mostly in the 18-and-above range. And after the Year of the Youngster in 2002, the aging gents took over the spotlight this year.
What happened? Why did these men start winning again, just when conventional wisdom says they should start winding down? If this form holds up, the Champions Tour is about to become much more competitive.
You know, I got to be honest with you - I never think of my age when I tee it up out here, said Jacobsen. I joke about it because people ask about it. I crawled up the hill on 17 there and people were yelling, go Jake. I said, Let me catch my breath. I got a little winded coming up the hill. In fact, I got light-headed screaming at you.
I joke about it. Today when I am playing with Chris Riley, or Aaron Baddeley or Tiger Woods, I'm not thinking about age.
But there are reasons why the over-40 set was dominant this year. It starts with the over-40s themselves. And look at their conditioning. Look at their equipment. And ' well ' look at their wins.
I've worked out more, said Jay Haas, who turned 50 Dec. 2. You can't get a seat in the fitness trailer anymore. Everybody does it - or most everyone, young and old. To me it would be easy for the young guys to do it, but when I was young I didn't, just because I felt like I didn't need to.
But just with the standard of play that's seemingly elevated every year and every week - and what Tiger and the other guys have put out there for us - I think we all believe that that certainly can only help exercising and being more fit. I guess I'm looking six or eight years down the road still trying to be competitive on the Champions Tour.
No one is denying that equipment gets partial credit. These guys find they can rope it 20, 30 yards further with the new-age metals as they could with the old clubs. Putters have improved tremendously when it comes to resisting torque ' or twisting. There is definitely a difference with the balls. It doesnt take just muscle anymore ' EVERYONE hits it a long way, the over-40s as well as the 20s.
I got this new driver, deep-face TaylorMade driver that goes forever, said Perry. The X ball from Titleist goes forever. I know I don't have the same club head speed back when I was 25. There is no way. But I'm able to hit it just as far, or maybe even further. I think that has been a big deal to all of us is equipment.
Sometimes, just seeing the over-40s do well is enough to get the other graybeards playing better. Davis Love III, who is standing firm at 39 years of age, noticed that earlier in the year, and once one of the elders got hot, the others couldnt help but follow.
A guy like Kenny Perry inspires a lot of people, who say, Hey, Kenny's playing good, we can all follow along with him, said Love. And Jay Haas - it's fun to watch a guy like that play good. He's a veteran guy that's a great player. And then obviously you get inspirational ones like Freddie. I guess part of it is just success of the older guys breeds more success for us.
And pride? I think pride enters into it, too, said Jacobsen. It's no surprise. Craig (Stadler) is another one in my age group and I think, Would you look at this guy? If he can do it, I can do it. You can always light the burner and get the fire going again. Sometimes it takes your fellow competitors to do it.
And theres no denying that experience has had a lot to do with it. Thats huge, said Perry.
You can't put a price on experience because you know playing 17 years out here, I know where all of these pins have been. You kind of understand how the golf course is going to play, where they will stick the flagsticks - when they are in those positions you know where to hit the ball.
I have had a lot of putts that are similar. I had this putt I don't know how many times. You get a good feel for the putt and, you know, I'm just not as uptight as I used to be. I'm very relaxed, going out there if I play good great. If I don't fine. Let's find out what's wrong and fix it.
As you get older, says Price, you get smarter, hopefully. You don't make as many mistakes. When you make mistakes on the golf course, you try not to beat yourself.
The older men dont live solely for golf, not at their age. They have a variety of interests, things that dont really involve the younger men. Families are an all-consuming passion, as well as other outside interests
I have more time now, said Nick Price. My life is more my own now. And I certainly dictate, you know, what I want to do in my life.
My family comes first, obviously. And then my golf. But I have such a wonderful balance in my life now and that's thanks to my wife and family, because they don't mind me going away for two weeks at a time. But I'm home an awful lot. It's definitely a great time for me right now.
A little maturity has served Perry very well.
I don't feel as guilty working on my game, he says. I kind of refocused and dedicated myself to the game a little bit. My oldest (daughter) is in college, my other two, I have a senior and sophomore. They're doing real well.
I felt guilty being out here because they always wanted me to come home. It seems like now I am just pushing harder. I'm trying to enjoy what few years I have left out here.
For that reason, says Haas, the over-40 set will always be more comfortable than the 20s and 30s.
I enjoy my time at home more than I used to, I guess, Haas says. But I think just being passionate about the game is probably the most important thing for me. I think this year I have a renewed passion for the game. I keep saying that.
You know, I kind of went out with the idea, I have nothing to lose this year. I'm exempt for the Champions Tour, I don't have to worry about making (the top) 125 (on the money list), what am I going to do the next year and all of that. I just kind of relaxed. I was very relaxed starting off the year. It's just kind of built on itself. I tried to have that same mindset the whole year.
Its that relaxed demeanor that has proved so successful to these middle-aged men. Life is good, the golf is good, and the wins were never better.
Related Links:
  • No. 1: Sorenstam's Season Transcends Wins
  • No. 2: Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003
  • No. 3: What a Year for Watson
  • No. 4: Player of Year Down to the Wire
  • No. 5: Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.