The Mystique

By Randall MellJanuary 14, 2011, 7:52 am
Jack Nicklaus admitted it. Sometimes, he just waited for players to beat themselves.

As Nicklaus built his skill, as he built victory upon victory, he also built an intimidating mystique that added to his edge.

Tom Weiskopf once captured the nature of the edge with a classic quote.

Tiger Woods
Players have found Tiger Woods less intimidating after his worst season. (Getty Images)
In a telephone conversation from his Arizona office this week, Weiskopf remembered the psychological battle so many players encountered when paired with Nicklaus in a final round with a championship within reach.

And those memories led Weiskopf to repeat his classic quote.

“As you looked at Jack Nicklaus at the first tee, you knew that he knew that you knew that he was going to beat you that day,” Weiskopf said.

So much of golf, tour pros will tell you, is played in the mind. If you don’t step on the first tee believing you can beat somebody, you probably won’t. Nicklaus won a lot of duels before they even began.

Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe it was Nicklaus’ foes who lost before teeing it up.

“Belief is a huge factor,” Weiskopf said. “There is no doubt about it.”

That’s what makes Woods’ quest to break Nicklaus’ record for most professional major championship victories so difficult to figure as Woods prepares to rebound from the worst year of his career and renew his chase.

How much of Woods’ quest will be about regaining his confidence? And how much will be about the confidence his foes have gained?

How much more difficult will winning majors be for Woods without the psychological edge he built? How much more difficult will it be with his competition emboldened?

Weiskopf’s career fell in such a way that he had a unique view of three of the most formidable mystiques in golf history.

Weiskopf played against Nicklaus, and he also played against Ben Hogan late in Hogan’s career, when Hogan was still an intimidating ball striker but not as good with the putter. Though Weiskopf never played against Woods, he’s played three practice rounds with him, and he’s watched him a lot.

In Nicklaus, Hogan and Woods, Weiskopf got to see how an intimidating aura tilted the playing field.

Nicklaus and Hogan eventually lost their advantages between the ropes, but the loss came in a slow fade, with age and the deterioration of skills. They never lost their mystique off the course.

Woods is different. He lost his mystique all at once, on and off the course.

Woods’ mystique might have been more formidable than Nicklaus’ or Hogan’s because he was even more successful with a lead in the final round of a major. Woods appeared more unbeatable than Nicklaus or Hogan. Woods was 14-0 with the lead in a final round of a major before Y.E. Yang beat him at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in 2009.

The personal turmoil that’s followed revelations of Woods’ infidelity, the loss to Yang, the winless struggles last year and the head-to-head loss to Graeme McDowell have dramatically changed the way players look at Woods.

“I think it will be very difficult for Tiger now because of the perception people have of him,” Weiskopf said.

You can hear the emboldened nature of Woods’ competition today.

“Bring it on,” Rory McIlroy said when asked about Woods’ improving game while in New York this winter.

This was after McIlroy said European Ryder Cuppers were eager for a chance to beat Woods last fall.

Ian Poulter called Woods “No. 2” at the Chevron World Challenge after Woods lost his No. 1 ranking, a bold little payback for Woods chiding Poulter in the past.

And then there was PGA Tour veteran Scott Verplank, who last month said Woods’ “shield of invincibility has been dissolved” and that players were not all that worried about Woods anymore.

The playing field is less reverent for Woods, less hospitable.

Plus, tour pros aren’t being peppered with questions about what makes Woods so great. In fact, for nearly a year, they’ve been asked what they see hindering his game and if they think he’ll regain his winning form.

Weiskopf, who claimed 16 PGA Tour titles, including the ’73 British Open, wonders like everyone else how Woods will respond in this new environment.

“Perception is very difficult to achieve, but just as difficult to overcome,” Weiskopf said. “I wouldn’t want to bet against Tiger, because time is on his side, but he had the perception of being perfect. Everything about him was marketed correctly. And the way he answered questions, he was almost infallible, more perfect than the pope. Well, that perception is gone.

“Tiger has now experienced what everyone who has played the game has experienced. He has gone through injury, he has gone through troubling times.”

As formidable as Nicklaus was, Weiskopf believes Woods’ advantage over this generation was greater than Nicklaus enjoyed in his time.

“Only time is going to prove what I’m going to say, but I do believe Jack Nicklaus competed against a more experienced, proven group of champions,” Weiskopf said. “I think there was less intimidation, more desire and belief in those individuals Nicklaus competed against. Look at the Hall of Famers he played against. I think there was more belief that they had a chance than there was in the first 10 or 12 years of Tiger’s career.”

But there’s another factor that Weiskopf gives to Woods that Weiskopf believes is overlooked.

With dramatic advances in club and ball technology, Weiskopf says equipment has been a great equalizer for the foes trying to beat Woods. It’s more difficult today, Weiskopf believes, for Woods or any skilled player to separate himself.

Still, Weiskopf favors Nicklaus when asked who he believes will be remembered as the greatest player. He says the greatness in Nicklaus goes beyond the 18 majors he won. He says it’s in the fact that Nicklaus finished among the top three in an astounding 46 majors.

“Nobody’s ever going to do that again, ever,” Weiskopf said. “Only time will prove whether Jack was the greatest player or not, but I think he is.”

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell
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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.