I haven’t quite got into the swing of my golf watching this year and I’m wondering why. After all, its not as if my diary is jam-packed with delicious things to do, people to see and events to attend, so why am I finding it easy to drift past the golf with the remote and find something else to while away the time of an evening?
I pondered this for a while and all I could come up with was that my own personal favourite players weren’t firing on all cylinders just yet and thus my interest in said tournaments waned. I’m also of the belief that we are saturated with televised golf to the extent that one tournament rolls into another. Sometimes the dial just shows “full”. For me, aside from the majors, weekend coverage would suffice and surely that would also help the production and commentary teams remain a little fresher and more innovative with their output?
Patricia sent me an interesting little article the other day from her eclectic golf archive which featured Derrick Pillage, a business manager of several of Britain’s young up-and-coming stars in the late 1960s. He was discussing several of the young players in his stable including Bernard Gallacher, Brian Barnes, Malcolm Gregson, Tony Jacklin and Tommy Horton. All were immensely talented and all became tournament winners and Ryder Cup players but even then Pillage felt our expectations of our young sportsmen and women were cripplingly high. He cited that Lee Trevino became Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour at the handsome age of 28 and Arnold Palmer was 29 when he won his first tournament. Nowadays that is considered old, particularly when you have Lydia Ko saying that she sees 30 as her prime time to retire from the fairways. Mind you, she has been winning professional golf tournaments since the tender age of 15 and was the youngest player ever to ascend to world No 1, at the age of 17.
There’s no doubt that winners have become younger and younger but most seem to flare brightly for only a few seasons before the flame dies. Many multiple major winners annexe their titles in a relatively short space of time and then don’t win the big ones again. Padraig Harrington won his three majors in 14 months and Rory won his four in the space of three years and a couple of months. On the other hand, Mickelson took almost a decade to gather up his five majors while Faldo managed six in a similar time frame but Brooks Koepka won four in three years. Of course, hopefully, young guns like Rory and Brooks aren’t finished. We don’t expect them to be, but I wonder if sometimes we’re not a little unrealistic. It’s hugely difficult to win one major, yet I find myself chafing with disappointment when Rory “only” records a top five or top ten finish. It’s not like football, rugby, cricket or netball after all, where you only play one opponent at a time. Golfers sometimes have 155 other players to contend with and anyone can have the week of their life.
I’m not quite sure where I’m going with all this except to say that when longevity and multiple majors are married together we are witnessing something quite rare indeed. Gary Player won nine majors over a 19-year span and Nicklaus won his 18 over a spell of 24 years. Tiger managed 15 majors from 1997 to 2019, again an extraordinary length of time to be competitive at the very top of the sport.Only five women have achieved double digits in major victories: Patty Berg 15; Mickey Wright 13; Louise Suggs 11; Babe Zaharias 10; and Annika Sorenstam 10. Annika wasn’t born when the last major was won by her formidable band of predecessors (Wright’s win in the Women’s Western Open in 1966) but the Swede went on to dominate the women’s game and won her 10 majors between 1995 and 2006. She may well have had more in her locker but retired in 2008 to start a family and develop her other business interests.
Annika turned 50 last year and is eyeing up playing in a few Senior Women’s majors this season. To that end she dusted off her golf clubs last week and played in the Gainbridge LPGA tournament at her home course of Lake Nona in Orlando. She eschewed any notions that she was “coming out of retirement” but she couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little tournament golf in her own back yard in preparation for the Senior US Women’s Open. Despite an incorrect ruling, which cost her dearly, she made the cut on the number and delighted her fans by playing on the weekend. It was a remarkable achievement for someone who had barely played in the intervening 13 years and despite her own description of herself now as a “wife and a mother” I wouldn’t bet against her winning her first Senior major later in the year.
She is, after all, one of those rare beings who has married domination, longevity and multiple majors and they are few and far between in this most exacting of sports.I intend to turn over a new leaf as of now and rejoice in the accomplishments and successes of my favourites instead of feeling annoyed with them when they fall short of my ridiculous expectations. For a fan, realism, after all, can armour you against disappointment.