In Golf Age Definitely Has Its Benefits
Gymnasts are generally used up and gone by the time they are 20. Figure skaters get a little more longevity, topping out at, say, 25. Football, basketball and baseball players go to 30-35.
But golf? Last week Annika Sorenstam proved she is still No. 1 in the box office and No. 1 on the course, and shes already 32. And the men are even more incredible ' the last two tournaments have been won by a 42-year-old ' Kenny Perry.
Theyve played 22 tournaments on the PGA Tour, and nine have been won by gents 39 or older. The only kids who have won are Ben Crane (26) and a young fella who has won three times ' someone name of Eldrick (Tiger) Woods. Hes 27.
The women? Before Annika won last weekend, a couple of 42-year-olds won the previous two, buying Geritol and collecting the hardware. How often have you heard the names Juli Inkster and Rosie Jones?
Golf, you see, doesnt require you to run fast or be so supple you can squeeze though a pinhead. You have to walk five miles a day in golf, sure, but the most important thing is to have remarkable muscle memory ' the ability to swing a club to and fro like a metronome, repeating the action every single time. Modern technology has already figured out how to make the ball go far ' the area that you think of when you think of youth. All that is really required is steady nerves ' and a hot hand.
I know I dont have the same clubhead speed (as) back when I was 25, admitted Perry. There is no way. But Im able to hit it just as far, or maybe further. I think that has been a big deal to us all ' equipment.
But, there is something more important, and something you can have only by playing a number of years. You can buy a new driver or golf ball - but you cant buy experience.
Thats huge, said Perry. You cant put a price on experience.
You kind of understand how the golf course is going to play, where they will split the flag sticks when they are in these positions ' you know where to hit the ball. I have had lots of putts that are similar.
And, you know, Im just not as uptight as I used to be. Im very relaxed going out there. If I play good ' great! If I dont ' fine. Lets find out whats wrong and fix it.
In ice skating, the ice is roughly the same dimensions in Calgary as it is Stockholm. In football and basketball ' ditto. Experience isnt nearly as big a factor.
On occasion, of course, raw ability just comes barging to the front, regardless if that ability is wielded by a youngster or a veteran. But if both the youngster and the oldtimer possess roughly the same skill level, you can be sure that experience will be the deciding factor in golf.
Inkster and Jones may be throwbacks on the womens tour. But Beth Daniel has almost broken though this year a couple of times, and she is 46. Lorie Kane is 38, and she is definitely a threat. Inkster feels it is a question of keeping goals in front of you and staying in shape.
My goal is to play good golf and to compete, she says. I would not be out there if I did not think I could compete, and as long as I can do that, I am just going to play it by ear.
Inkster has two daughters, aged 13 and 9, and it wasnt so long ago that she was busily trying to raise them from the infant stage. Now that that time-consuming business has been accomplished, however, she can practice when they go to school. Golf is exciting again, and so is her game.
I am very competitive, she said. I try to practice when they are in school. I am very competitive. In order for me to play well, I know I have to be ready when I come out here. When I am out here, I work hard at my game and try to stay prepared.
And still, age has its advantages in the world of golf. The Charles Howellses and the Luke Donalds and the Matt Kuchers will have to queue up and wait their turn. In this game, theres no business like the experience business.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.