Changing of the Guard
A Major Reassessment
This is an article from the Aug. 6, 2001 issue
The monkey has been passed. David Duval no longer qualifies as
the best player never to have won a major. (Although he's my pick
as the best player to have won only one.) Instead of hammering
Phil Mickelson and the usual subjects left on the BPNTHWM list,
let's focus on another group: the players whose finest moments
are behind them. These golfers might win the odd tour event, but
they're through in the majors.
Jack Nicklaus concedes that he's not a factor in the regular
Tour's majors--though I bet he still thinks he could steal a
Masters--but now he's toast in the Senior majors too. Yes, the
most exciting Senior moment of the year came when he made a run
at the U.S. Open at Salem, but what about bogeying three of his
last six holes in the final round? Did anyone else hear a last
gasp? It's nine months until the next Senior major, and by then
Nicklaus, who hasn't won in five years, will be 62. He jokes that
X-rays of his back "look like a war zone." A herniated disk has
bothered him all year, and he had to withdraw after 27 holes of
the Senior Players with a hamstring tear. Bad things happen to
old bodies, Jack. No matter how fanatical you are about getting
in shape, I don't believe you will ever be healthy enough to
knock off guys a dozen years younger.
At 38 Colin Montgomerie should be too young to write off, yet
I've colored him gone for a while, and his performance at Royal
Lytham made it official. Even though he opened with a 65, Monty
sounded like a beaten man, an accident waiting to happen. When he
talked about how hard it was to lead the British Open, he was
already looking for something soft to break his fall.
Ian Woosnam, 43, was so surprised to be in contention at Lytham
that he forgot how to count to 15. Did his gaffe cost him the
Open? I doubt it.
Greg Norman last won four years and two surgeries ago, and it's
been eight years since the Shark, now 46, won a major. He's all
about his businesses--clothes, courses, wine and yachts--and his
family these days. He withdrew from the British Open to attend
the funeral of a friend. Would he have done that 10 years ago? He
has his priorities in order. He has a life, but he won't be
winning any more majors.
When it comes to squandered talent, John Daly, 35, is the
clubhouse leader. Although Daly has had more chances than Darryl
Strawberry over the last decade, he has been unable, until this
year, to get his addictions under control and lead what passes
for a stable life. Daly is too scarred and carries too much
baggage to add to his two major titles.
It would take a miracle on the order of Nicklaus in the '86
Masters for 44-year-old Nancy Lopez to win another major, much
less the Women's Open, the one title missing from her resume.
Lopez, a part-timer on the tour, has been overwhelmed by a wave
of long-hitting youngsters and driven foreigners, and she has
failed to break 70 in 25 rounds this year.
Give Nick Faldo credit. At 44 he's still retooling his game, only
it always winds up looking like a once-used Rubik's Cube: close,
but never just right. Be thankful you've won six majors, Nick.
Paul Azinger, John Cook, Ray Floyd, Scott Hoch and Greg Norman
left a message: "You're welcome."
Carnoustie was more of a hay-baling contest than a major in '99,
so it figures that two years later the guy who won there,
32-year-old Paul Lawrie, is a distant 25th in Europe's Ryder Cup
rankings. Like Jean Van de Velde, 35, who was wide right on his
once-in-a-lifetime shot that week, Lawrie is proof that, well,
Fred Couples is 41 and happy as a clam with a wife and two kids.
Why play constantly when being a stay-at-home dad is better than
winning a major every day? He has his green jacket, and that will
have to be enough.
The Skins Game, the Thanksgiving-weekend staple on ABC that has
been slipping in the ratings, will make a strong comeback now
that Tiger Woods has agreed to play in the event for four of the
next five years as part of his new endorsement deal with Disney.
Woods's contract also calls for him to play in a prime-time
special, like Monday's Battle at Bighorn, once a year.
What do these players have in common?
They're the last golfers to win on Tour playing on a sponsor's
exemption. Gossett won at last week's John Deere Classic, Woods
at Las Vegas in '96 and Mickelson at Tucson in '91.
Who was more responsible for making sure Ian Woosnam had only 14
clubs, Woosnam or his caddie?
His caddie 55%
--Based on 5,102 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Which would you prefer to see, a mixed-team match
such as Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods against Karrie Webb and
David Duval, or Sorenstam-Webb versus Duval-Woods? Vote at
Christina Kim, a 17-year-old from San Jose, last week shot the
lowest score ever in a USGA event, a 62 at the U.S. Girls'
Junior. Christina went on to lose in the round of 16. Here are
the players who shared the old record, the events in which they
shot a 63, and how they finished.
Jim Wilson 9th
Helen Alfredsson 9th
'94 Women's Open
Jack Nicklaus 1st
'80 U.S. Open
Tom Weiskopf 37th
'80 U.S. Open
Johnny Miller 1st
'73 U.S. Open
In April, Masters officials said they had hired architect Tom
Fazio to tweak a few holes at Augusta National. Instead, eight
holes--seven par-4s and the par-5 8th--have been altered, making
the face-lift the most extensive in the club's history. The
changes include new tees, recontoured fairways and greens, and
reconfigured and repositioned bunkers. The course should play at
about 7,145 yards, or 160 more than in the past. Here are the
holes that have been changed, their old and new yardages, and the
Hole Old New
1 410 430
With the tee moved back 20 yards and the bunker on the right
side of the fairway elongated by 30 yards, a mid-iron--rather
than a wedge--will be the choice for approach shots.
7 365 405
Because the new tee is set back among trees, players will feel
as if they are driving through a chute.
8 550 565
The hole is still reachable in two by big hitters, but not if
their drives land in the gigantic fairway bunker on the right,
which has been extended to 50 yards.
9 430 455
The tee is back 25 yards, so Tiger Woods will have to hit a
driver to avoid a downhill lie on his approach.
10 485 495
Augusta National's hardest hole is now the longest par-4 in the
history of the major championships.
11 455 465
Despite a flatter, narrower landing area, we're still talking
driver-wedge for the long-knockers.
14 405 420
Moving the tee back 15 yards and to the left will force players
to shape their tee shots.
18 405 430
No more bombs away over the fairway bunkers on the left. A new
tee is being built near the 17th green, and the bunkers have