Failure at First Thought

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 19, 2006, 5:00 pm
Lindsey Jacobellis. Name ring a bell? If not, then you probably havent been watching much of the Winter Olympics.
 
Truthfully, neither have I. Im from Georgia. Skiing, skating and snowboarding are as appealing to me as sitting through a Ben Crenshaw acceptance speech.
 
But when I saw an image Friday of Jacobellis sprawled out in the snow, looking as if she had been competing in the biathlon with Dick Cheney, I had to at least read about what happened.
 
If you dont know the story, Jacobellis was competing in something called womens snowboardcross (Seriously, snowboardcross? What the hell?). She was easily leading her race with just two mounds between her and the gold medal. On her penultimate jump, however, she got a little too cute, hot-dogged it a little, and slipped on the mustard. She landed awkwardly, crashed hard, watched helplessly as a Swiss competitor sped past her, and ultimately settled for silver.
 
Greg Norman
Despite all of his accomplishments, Greg Norman will forever be remembered for his 1996 Masters collapse.
In one brief moment, on one grand stage, Jacobellis became a member of the most dubious club in all of sports: Failure at First Thought.
 
FaFT. Doesnt have much of a ring to it. Like H.I. McDonough said in 'Raising Arizona': Thats one bonehead name.
 
That it is. And its an organization of which no one wants to be a part. Except that athletes dont have much of a choice as to their inclusion. We put them in.
 
Because it is we ' fans, media ' who forever attached this stigma to them.
 
FaFT is reserved for athletes who will forever be remembered for one inglorious incident or act, despite whatever their glorious accomplishments may have been.
 
Golf has ample representation in this group.
 
The president of the Golf chapter in FaFT is Greg Norman. The man was the greatest player of his generation, the greatest in the game for over a decade, and yet the mere mention of his name instantly revives ' above all other major mishaps ' memories of one single, solitary Sunday in Augusta, Ga.
 
Had there never been a Bob Tway or a Larry Mize, or even a Fuzzy Zoeller or a Paul Azinger, there would still be this day trumping all others in our minds. When you picture Norman, is it in some triumphant pose, perhaps holding a claret jug, or is it his body collapsing off the 15th green at Augusta National, his putter like a sword in the act of hari-kari, April 14, 1996?
 
Major championships are the great inductor of golfers into this ignoble society.
 
We dont really remember players for their failures in regular tournaments, unless their achievements are so minimal that there is nothing else by which to really remember them. Plus, there are just too many tournaments, too many collapses, too many mistakes to remember them all.
 
Its unlikely that years from now we will see Becky Iverson and immediately recall her making triple bogey on the 15th hole en route to losing this past weeks SBS Open.
 
But the majors are different. The majors are only four times a year. The majors are when we all pay attention. The majors are where we never forget the winners and never allow the losers to forget they lost.
 
Scott Hoch won 11 times on the PGA Tour, finished in the top 40 on the money list 20 times in a 21-year stretch, and was ' in a great oxymoron ' highly regarded as golfs most underrated performer.
 
And yet theres that 30 putt at Augusta in 89.
 
For Doug Sanders, theres that 30 putt at St. Andrews in 70.
 
That one would have made him a British Open champion. But he pushed it, and then tried to drag it back like he had just dropped a $100 bill into a charity box when he thought it was a dollar.
 
Thomas Bjorn
Thomas Bjorn's double bogey on the 16th in the 2003 British Open bought him inclusion into FaFT.
For Thomas Bjorn, theres Royal St. Georges 2003. Bjorn beat Tiger Woods head-to-head over four days in Dubai in 2001; they should have given him two trophies and Tigers appearance money for doing that. But this we dont remember. This we do: leaving two in the bunker on 16 and handing the claret jug to a guy who had done nothing prior and has done nothing since.
 
The guys in this group dont even need an explanation as to why they are members. You need only hear or read their name and it becomes immediately evident.
 
Roberto De Vicenzo. Jean Van de Velde. Ed Snead.
 
And Im sure there are more.
 
Many others could easily be among these unfortunate men, for they have had their unfortunate moments. Yet, for various reasons, though we may remember these failures, they are not the first things that come to our minds.
 
At first thought, Arnold Palmer is The King, the fans man. Hes not the man who doubled 18 to lose the 61 Masters or the man who blew a seven-stroke lead with nine holes to play in the 66 U.S. Open.
 
At first thought, Sam Snead is not the man who made an eight on the final hole to blow the 39 U.S. Open or the man who missed a 30 putt on the final hole to lose the 47 U.S. Open. Hes Slammin Sammy, the man with the sweet swing and the colorful tales. Hes a legend.
 
Just like Ben Hogan, who is a survivor, a perfectionist and a champion. He is all of these things before he is the man who 3-putted the 18th hole in both the 46 Masters and U.S. Open, losing by one in the former and missing out on a playoff in the latter.
 
Even a guy like Retief Goosen. Hes a two-time U.S. Open champion, the Quiet Man in the shadows of golfs modern-day Big 4. At first thought, hes not the man who shot 81 in the final round of last years U.S. Open, having begun the day with a three-stroke lead.
 
He could have forever been the man who missed a 3-foot putt to win the 2001 U.S. Open. But he got a reprieve, won in a playoff, and now that miss is more of a footnote than it is the main headline in his career review.
 
Its a shame that certain athletes will forever be remembered first and foremost for a single moment of failure. But thats the way it is; thats the way we think ' not all of us, but the majority of us, me included.
 
But in concern to these players, if their accomplishments dont supersede their biggest failure at first thought, at least try to remember the positives at some point down the line.
 
Remember that De Vicenzo won the 1967 British Open and was a gentleman of the game. Remember that Sanders won 20 times on the PGA Tour and was a character of the game.
 
Remember Normans many wins, in addition to his many losses.
 
Remember that Van de Velde well, theres really only one reason to remember Jean Van de Velde.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
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