Father Time catches Woods in race to Jack's record

By Joe PosnanskiFebruary 6, 2015, 4:04 am

So I have a friend, a smart guy, who still thinks Tiger Woods will tie Jack Nicklaus’ record.

Well, I don’t know if he still thinks that after Thursday’s sad turn when Tiger again withdrew from a tournament and said something about how he couldn’t get his glutes activated.

Yeah. But even after last week’s fiasco, where Woods shot an 82 and chipped like a weekend hacker, my friend insisted that Woods still had one more great run in him and that, before he was done, he would win four more major championships to give him 18, just like Nicklaus had.

I will concede there is some movement in my friend's position because until recently he’d been insisting that Woods would break Nicklaus’ record and now only thinks that Woods will tie the record ... but the point remains the same. The point is: My friend is delusional.

Then, we’re all just a little bit delusional when it comes to age.

I’ve written at length about how golfers age. It’s not so different from how baseball players age. There’s a temptation to believe golfers play great in their 40s because Phil Mickelson won a British Open at 43, and Nicklaus won a Masters at 46, and Ray Floyd, Lee Trevino, Darren Clarke, Hale Irwin had moments of glory in their 40s, and because Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Sam Snead and others have contended even in their 50s.

This is anecdotal stuff, though, much like thinking that pitchers must be good in their 40s because Roger Clemens, Phil Niekro, Jamie Moyer and Nolan Ryan had great seasons in their 40s.


Woods withdraws | Back again | Injury timeline | Photo gallery


Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren still get good parts in their 60s. That doesn’t mean it’s like that for most actresses.

The golf numbers are plain – I put them in that story. Here are three statistics:

  • The median age for major champion winners since 1960 is 32.
  • Only 20 of the 220 winners since 1960 (9%) were 40 or over.
  • Since 2000, only four of 60 (7%) major winners were 40 or over, and three of those four won the Open Championship. No 40-year-old has won the Masters or the U.S. Open in the 21st century.

Golfers don’t age as obviously as, say, tennis players do. But the theme is the same. Roger Federer, after losing at the Australian Open, said he had a bad day. Chris Evert responded to that with one of the smartest things I’ve heard about athletes aging. She said that the thing about getting older is that you just have more bad days.

That’s pretty profound, if you think about it. There are times when Federer, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods are as great as they were young. No question. But then there’s tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. And while the bad days used to happen rarely, like a weird 24-hour virus that comes out of nowhere, the viruses pop up more and more often as you get old. Maybe you have one bad day for every three good ones. Then it’s one bad day for every two good ones. Then you have one bad day for every good one.

Woods' career will always be divided in golf fans' minds by the personal scandal. Before the scandal he won 14 major championships, one of those on one leg, and played more perfect golf than anyone – including Nicklaus, Hogan and Jones  ever played.

After the scandal, of course, he has won zero major championships, really never coming all that close to winning one and has gone two and a half years without winning any tournaments. He did win three tournaments in 2012, five more in 2013, and worked his way back up to No. 1 in the world ... but golf greatness is measured in majors. Woods knows this better than anyone.

I don’t think the scandal, though, is the right dividing line for Woods. I don’t believe that it has been the decisive factor in his decline. I think injuries have been a bigger part of things. And I think age is a bigger part than most want to admit.

Woods won his last major when he was 32. That’s not really so out of line with other good golfers. Fred Couples won his only major at 32. Johnny Miller won his last at 29. Seve Ballesteros won his last at 31. Tom Watson was 33. Palmer was 34. Curtis Strange was 34. And so on.

Woods has been playing this game since he was a toddler. It’s hard to imagine that anyone has swung the club as hard and as often as he did. There was never a good reason to believe his body would hold up. There was never a particularly good reason to believe he would age well, just as there isn’t really a reason to believe Miguel Cabrera will age well or LeBron James.

We just want to believe it. We want to believe that their mental toughness will translate in longevity. We want to believe that can overcome time. We always want to believe.

I have not believed for years that Tiger would break or tie Nicklaus’ record, but I did believe that he would win another major championship or two. He certainly played well enough in the last couple of years to win one. And, sure, he might play well enough again. But right now we are seeing a 39-year-old man whose body cannot sustain the violence of a golf swing hit again and again. We are seeing a 39-year-old man whose swing is so far gone that even a know-nothing like me can look at him on the Konica Minolta swing-whiz-fizz-les-miz-gryzz-showbiz-ol’-diz-pop-quiz-nothing-beats-the-wiz camera and say, “Yuck.” We are seeing a remarkable athlete rage against the dying of the light  and like with all athletes, the light dies anyway.

Dale Murphy, one of my favorite athletes and people, hit 398 home runs in his career. I think he probably wanted 400. That’s a round number. That used to be a Hall of Fame qualifier, too — until the 1980s, every player with 400 homers was elected to the Hall. I don’t know how much that number 400 mattered to him, but I do know that in 1992, at age 36, he played 18 games with Philadelphia. He hit .161 with two home runs. He didn’t want it to end like that so in 1993, he went to Colorado for its inaugural season and played for the minimum salary. Like I say, he needed only two home runs. He could not get even one of them. He got in 26 games, came to the plate 49 times, and hit .141 with one extra base hit.

It had ended for him so suddenly. At 31, he hit 44 home runs and was an MVP candidate. At 37, he couldn’t lift one fly ball into the mountain air and over the wall. That’s not baseball. That’s life.

And now, it’s Tiger Woods. He was the No. 1 golfer in the world just months ago. Just last week, during his dreadful two days at the Phoenix Open, he managed to get his club-head speed up to almost 125 mph, which is remarkable stuff. If only he can harness his swing again, if only he can get back to chipping with confidence, if only he can stay healthy, if only he can ... the declining years have a lot of “if onlys.”

That’s not Tiger Woods. That’s life.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.