Glory Past 40

By David Marr IiiNovember 5, 2003, 5:00 pm
When a good idea is cross-pollinated with hard work and fortuitous timing, the result is invariably successful. Such is the case with the UBS Cup.

Created to showcase world-class professionals over the age of 40 in an international team competition, the event is in position to capitalize on the remarkable success of golfers who find their 30s are in the rear view mirror. This year alone, 10 players in the age group have won 14 PGA Tour events. Which begs the age-old question - what years define a golfers competitive prime?

If you take Bobby Jones as an example, it would seem that youth prevails. For most of the 20th century Jones was considered the Greatest golfer of all time. He won his first major championship at the age of 21, then retired seven years later after winning 11 more.

Jones early exit makes him an incomplete case study. But a look at the next Greatest, Jack Nicklaus gives the fullest possible example of a championship career.

Jones tournament career was atypical due to its brevity, as was the Golden Bears longevity. No champion has ever been able to sustain competitive excellence for as many years as Nicklaus. By the age of 29 Nicklaus had won seven majors and the career slam, but his 30s defined Nicklaus as a champion. At 30 he won the Open Championship, in America known at the British Open, at St. Andrews which started a run of 33 majors with eight wins, seven runner-up finishes, 25 top-fives and only twice out of the top 10. His worst finish was tied for 13th.

Along the way, he finished his second and third laps around the career slam. At 40 Nicklaus won two more majors, and his Masters win at 46 is still recalled by many golf fans as their favorite moment in major championship golf.

Not all great champions have started fast, however. Fifty years ago, Ben Hogan won all three majors in which he competed. He was 41 years old in 1953, having won his first major in his mid-30s. Hogan was a late bloomer whose career was interrupted by a serious car accident after he had won three of his nine career majors. Even taking into account his recuperation, Hogans prime has to be considered from the ages of 34 through 42.

Traditionally a player in peak form needs to be young enough to possess the athleticism required for a solid, powerful swing, and mature enough to have gained the experience to handle all the vagaries of the game. Mental toughness and course management are vital to a players score, and typically these traits take a good deal of time to develop on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods breathtaking emergence on the PGA Tour mirrors the early success of Jones and Nicklaus, but only time will tell what ages define his prime.

While the Tiger Effect on tour has created a false sense of youthful domination, another trend has developed. Players who have gained the necessary experience and maturity through years of competition are now more able to maintain the youthful athleticism needed for the physical execution of the game. Diet and fitness have enabled players to retain flexibility and stamina, while equipment tailored to a players game has helped reduce the negative effects of an aging swing. The proof lies in the results on tour this year.

The season started with players in their late 30s winning events and players in their 40s like Jay Haas and John Huston contending late Sunday afternoons. March opened with 47-year-old Scott Hoch winning at Doral, and a 40-something golfer would win at least one event per month for the rest of the year. In April, 43-year-old Fred Couples won in his collegiate hometown of Houston. The months of May, June and July saw victories by Kenny Perry. The soft-spoken 42-year-old from Kentucky claimed such important titles as The Bank of America Colonial and The Memorial, but it was the two weeks following Perrys win in Milwaukee that defined this season for the over-40 crowd.

At the B.C. Open, 50-year-old Craig Stadler entered the final round tied for ninth, eight shots behind 42-year-old Steve Lowery. Stadler birdied four of his first five and surged to a one-shot win. The victory made Stadler the only man ever to win a PGA Tour event as a fulltime member of the Champions Tour. It was his first win since 1996, and the very next week Peter Jacobsen claimed his first title since 1995 at the Greater Hartford Open.

Kirk Triplett represented the group in August with a win in Reno, while September saw four players in their 40s take home trophies in consecutive weeks. One of the tours oldest stops was decided by a playoff between 44-year-old Bob Tway and 42-year-old Brad Faxon as Tway ended his 8-year drought. J.L. Lewis and Tommy Armour III went back-to-back in late September after Vijay Singh had won his second event of the year as a 40-year-old, and his third overall. John Huston started October right with a win at the Southern Farm Bureau. It was the ninth win by a 40-something golfer in 13 weeks.

Youngsters may still dominate the endorsement deals and TV coverage, but this year experienced players have proven their mettle.

As the UBS Cup matures, so does the level of play enjoyed by its participants. No age group in the game has experienced a resurgence like the 40-something golfers this year. Their competitive level may be the story of the year on the PGA Tour, and it is certain to provide the UBS Cup with all the excitement and excellence golf fans have come to expect from superior international team competitions.
 
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • UBS Cup - TV Airtimes
  • UBS Cup - Full Coverage
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    First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 12:20 pm

    Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

    Other notable groupings:

    • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
    • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
    • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
    • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
    • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
    • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

    Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

    1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

    1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

    1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

    2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

    2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

    2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

    2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

    2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

    3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

    3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

    3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

    3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

    3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

    4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

    4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

    4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

    4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

    4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

    4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

    5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

    5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

    5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

    5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

    5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

    6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

    6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

    6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

    6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

    6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

    7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

    7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

    7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

    7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

    7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

    8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

    8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

    8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

    8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

    8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

    9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

    9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

    9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

    9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

    9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

    9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

    10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

    10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

    10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

    10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

    10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

    11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

    11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon

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    Rahm's Carnousite strategy: 'As many drivers as I can'

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 10:57 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In his practice round Monday at Carnoustie, Jon Rahm bashed away with driver on the 18th tee, reducing one of the most intimidating finishing holes in championship golf into a driver-wedge.

    Indeed, when it comes to his choice of clubs off the tee this week at The Open, Rahm has one strategy in mind.

    “As many drivers as I can,” he said after playing 18 alongside Rory McIlroy. “I just feel comfortable with it.”

    Playing downwind, the firm and fast conditions on the 18th have led some players, even a medium-length hitter like Brandt Snedeker, to challenge the burn fronting the green.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Rahm explained Monday why that was the prudent play.

    “You can lay up with an iron farther back and have 140 or 150 meters to the front and have a 7-, 8- or 9-iron in,” Rahm said. “But if you hit a good one with a driver, you’re going to have nothing to the green.

    “If you hit the rough this year, it’s not as thick as other years. You actually get a lot of good lies, so you can still hit the green with confidence.”

    Rahm said that revelation was “quite surprising,” especially after encountering thicker fescue when he played the French Open and Irish Open, where he recorded a pair of top-5 finishes.

    “But with this much sun” – it hasn’t rained much, if at all, over the past six weeks – “the fescue grass can’t grow. It just dies,” he said. “It’s a lot thinner than other years, so unless they can magically grow it thicker the next few days, it’s pretty safe to assume we can be aggressive.”

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    Remembering Jean, because we'll always remember Jean

    By Al TaysJuly 16, 2018, 10:38 am

    The thing I remember about the 1999 Open Championship is that for 54 holes, it was boring. I can’t speak for the next 17, because I didn’t watch. I took advantage of a beautiful Sunday morning to play golf. When our group finished, we went into the clubhouse hoping to catch the last few holes or at least find out who won. Instead, we were greeted by an almost deafening buzz. It seemed everyone in the dining room was excitedly talking at once.

    The wall-mounted televisions provided the answer. There stood Jean Van de Velde, resplendent in a white visor and blue shirt, and whatever the opposite of “resplendent” is with his trouser legs rolled up above his knees. He was up to his ankles in the burn that winds in front of Carnoustie’s 18th green, hands on hips, holding a wedge. He was staring down into the water the way you’d stare at a storm grate through which you had just accidentally dropped your car keys. You know, the “What the heck am I going to do NOW?” stare.

    Van de Velde was the reason I had dismissed this 128th Open Championship as boring. Actually, he was one of two reasons. The first was that Tiger Woods was no factor. The second was that Van de Velde was running away with it, having taken a five-shot lead into the final round. It also didn’t help my interest level that I knew nothing about Van de Velde. I didn’t know Jean Van de Velde from Jean Valjean. The only thing I knew about him was that he was French, and the last great French golfer was … uh, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

    As we got caught up on Van de Velde’s predicament – he had gone to the tee of the par-4 18th hole with a three-shot lead, but through a series of calamities now lay 3 … underwater – now my opinion of the guy did a 180. NOW I wanted him to win. It wasn’t going to be easy, though. Surely he would come to his senses and take a drop (4), then pitch onto the green (5) and hope to get that shot close enough that he could make the putt for 6 and claim the claret jug. A 7 – which would have plunged him into a playoff – was not a farfetched possibility.

    Not farfetched at all; that’s the score he made, only it didn’t unfold quite as simply as I had envisioned. After taking his drop, Van de Velde hit his next shot into a greenside bunker. He then blasted out to 8 feet and, needing to make the putt to get into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, he did just that.

    You think Leonard’s 45-footer at Brookline that won the Ryder Cup later that year was clutch? I’ll take Van de Velde’s putt eight days a week.



    But there would be no happy ending for Van de Velde. In the four-hole, aggregate playoff, he opened with a double bogey and watched Lawrie win his only major.

    Van de Velde got roasted in the media for “choking” and “making stupid decisions.” I felt this was unfair. So the next day, in my capacity as a sports columnist for The Palm Beach Post, I wrote this:

    “I have a new hero. Jean Van de Velde, The Man Who Gave Away the British Open.” I wrote that Van de Velde had “remained true to himself” and that had he geared down and played the hole safely and won with a double bogey, he would have been quickly forgotten.

    As it turned out, because of his tragedy (self-inflicted though it was), he gained far more fame for losing than Lawrie did for winning (which is unfair to Lawrie, but that’s a tale for another time). I’ll also wager that Van de Velde gained far more fans for the grace with which he took his defeat than he would have had he won. See Norman, Greg, Augusta, 1996.

    Van de Velde may have made some questionable decisions – hitting driver off the tee, bringing water into play on his third shot when he had a horrible lie – but he had reasons for all of them. Nowhere do you see him saying “I am such an idiot” a la Phil Mickelson, or “What a stupid I am” a la Roberto De Vicenzo.

    “Sure, I could have hit four wedges,” he recently told Golf Channel. “Wouldn’t they have said, ‘He won The Open, but, hey, he hit four wedges.’ I mean, who hits four wedges?”

    There’s a great scene in the 1991 movie “The Commitments,” about putting a soul-music band together in the slums of Dublin. Against all odds, the band reaches the brink of success before sinking in a maelstrom of arguments and fistfights after its last gig.

    Manager Jimmy Rabbitte is trudging home through the gloom, when saxophonist Joey “The Lips” Fagan rides up on his ever-present scooter. Joey tries to get Jimmy to see the bright side.

    Look, I know you're hurting now, but in time you'll realize what you've achieved,” Joey says.

    “I've achieved nothing!” Jimmy snaps.

    “You're missing the point,” Joey replies. “The success of the band was irrelevant - you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure we could have been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way it's poetry.’

    That’s what Jean Van de Velde created on that memorable Scottish day in July 1999.

    Poetry.

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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 16, 2018, 10:20 am

    Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.