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The Age of Tiger Talking Annika

These days in golf there are 31 flavors. And were not talking about ice cream.
Tiger Woods, the undisputed best player in the game is 31 years old.
Zach Johnson, the current Masters champion who backed his jacket up with a victory in Atlanta earlier this month, is 31 years old.
Rory Sabbatini, unafraid to challenge Woods publicly and victorious Sunday at Colonial in Texas, is 31 years old.
Henrik Stenson, the highest-rated European (No. 7) in the Official World Golf Ranking and a winner at the prestigious WGC-Accenture Match Play earlier this year, is 31 years old.
Is this is a coincidence?
The answer, according to my theory, is that it is not.
Woods ambushed his elders when he turned pro in 1996 and players like Ernie Els (now 37), Phil Mickelson (37 next month), and Davis Love III (43) never really recovered from Woods instant success. (Obviously Mickelson hasnt suffered too much, having won two of the last four Masters and the 2005 PGA.)
The younger top players'read: Sergio Garcia (27), Adam Scott (26), and Charles Howell III (27) just to name a few'only know Woods as a kind of golfing god.
But his contemporaries, the guys his own age, have been aware of Tiger for a long time. Many of them competed against him when they were youngsters. They recognize how good he is. But they have known no other condition of competition other than Woods being the guy they had to beat to win meaningful titles.
Vaughn Taylor, a Ryder Cupper and two-time PGA TOUR winner, is also 31 years old. So is Hank Kuehne, an immense talent who hasnt blossomed as a professional mainly because of injuries and personal problems.
When I ran this theory past Morris Pickens, Johnsons mental coach, he didnt shoot it down. But, he warned, Any time anybody has success with Tiger, it is only temporary.
There isnt any doubt in the mind of LPGA Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth that Annika Sorenstam will one day catch'and pass'her on the all-time victory list.
Whitworth won 88 times. Sorenstam trails by 19. Its just a question of when, Whitworth told me this week.
Amazingly, Whitworth never missed a tournament due to injury during her career. She turned pro at 19 and won for the first time at age 22 at the 1962 Kelly Girls Open. Her last victory, the 1985 United Virginia Bank Classic, came at the age of 45. For her part, the 36-year-old Sorenstam is returning from back and neck problems this week at the Ginn Tribute. Whitworth says she does not see Sorenstam slowing down.
Whitworth also says she has never talked about the record with Sorenstam. But, she says, she will be rooting for Annika. There is nothing wrong, Whitworth says, with being someones motivation.
This is especially heartening to hear at a time when Barry Bonds is chasing Hank Aarons home record in baseball while controversy surrounds Bonds and frost dances from Aarons mouth every time somebody asks him about Bonds.
If you were waiting for the USGA to announce its special exemptions into next months U.S. Open at Oakmont, you can stop holding your breath.
There wont be any this year.
No specials last year either, said USGA Executive Director David Fay. As is the case each year, the decision was made after developing a list of those who were not already exempt.
One player who deserved consideration was Loren Roberts, still highly-competitive on the Champions Tour at the tender age of 51. Roberts, you may remember was one of three players in the 1994 U.S. Open playoff at Oakmont won by Ernie Els.
On the other hand, judging from reports on the golf courses severity emanating almost daily from Oakmont, maybe Roberts is glad he wasnt asked.
Starting with the final four holes of his second round at Colonial last week and counting the first 14 holes of his third round, eventual winner Rory Sabbatini needed just 17 putts in that 18-hole stretch.
The longest putt made on the PGA TOUR this year measured 100 feet and one inch. It was canned by Ben Curtis at THE PLAYERS on the 14th hole. There have been 105 putts of 50 feet or more made on the PGA TOUR this year.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika