“A man is not old as long as he’s seeking something.”
Jean Rostand, the French biologist and philosopher who lived to age 82, once said that.
If Rostand was right, we expect Tiger Woods might be feeling more renewed than old as he turns 38 today.
After winning five times and claiming his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year award, Woods has ample momentum and confidence to take into the new year in his bid to break his five-year winless spell in the majors. There’s so much more we know Woods is seeking, and it ought to keep him feeling young, in the mind, at least.
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”
Robert Browning, the poet, wrote that. But Woods, with his focus on always improving, seems a kindred spirit. He still seems to burn to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional major championship titles and leave no doubt about who is the best player who ever lived.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and author, once said that.
At age 37, Woods answered some questions about his ability to continue to dominate, beating elite fields in all five of his PGA Tour titles, but he failed to win a major yet again. That left the year begging the question whether he still has what it will take to catch Nicklaus.
At age 38, Woods looks poised to give a good answer.
“I’m looking forward to the major championships,” Woods said earlier this month. “They have set up well for me over the years.”
Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla are home to the 2014 majors.
Woods has won the Masters four times. He finished second the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pinehurst in 2005 and tied for third when it was played there in 1999. He won the British Open the last time it was played at Royal Liverpool in ’06, and he won at Valhalla when the PGA Championship was played there in 2000.
If Woods doesn’t break his major-less spell this coming year, his 38th year will beg harder questions about his ability to catch Nicklaus.
“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”
U.S. General Douglas MacArthur once said that.
At 38, a professional athlete’s level of faith, hope and fear can be severely tested. It’s an age most athletes have already retired. Of course, golf is very different. Julius Boros won a major when he was 48. Nicklaus won the Masters when he was 46. Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open when he was 45.
Ben Hogan won five majors after turning 38, Nicklaus won four and Sam Snead and Gary Player each won three.
With fitness and technology large influences on the game, golf careers are lengthening. Vijay Singh won 25 times after turning 38.
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
Henry David Thoreau wrote that.
The athletes who’ve persevered the longest all seem to have retained their enthusiasm for their game.
There was still childlike joy in the way Brett Favre played leading the Green Bay Packers to the NFC Championship when he was 38. He was the NFC’s starting Pro Bowl quarterback that year.
There was still a young warrior’s pride in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he led the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals when he was 38. He was the MVP of the series.
Jerry Rice caught 75 passes for the Oakland Raiders when he was 38.
Junior Seau was a team captain when he helped the New England Patriots to an undefeated regular season when he was 38.
Hey, at 38, anything can still seem possible. Neal Armstrong knew that feeling. He was 38 when he became the first man to walk on the moon.