Patterico's Pontifications

8/16/2009

Golf’s Giant is Beaten

Filed under: Sports — DRJ @ 6:32 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

No. 1 ranked Tiger Woods led by 2 strokes going into today’s final round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine but he ended as runner-up to South Korean Y.E. Yang, the first Asian-born golfer to win a major golf championship. Yang is ranked No. 110 in the world rankings.

Until today, Woods was “14-0 when he went into the final round of a major atop the leaderboard [and he] had not lost any tournament around the world in nine years when leading by two shots.”

Will this be remembered as “Woods losing a 54-hole lead for the first time in a major?” Maybe … it had to happen sooner or later. However, Woods was also runner-up in the PGA 7 years ago at Hazeltine when he “birdied the last four holes and came up one short of Rich Beem.” Woods was charging then while today Woods faded at the end, but I think Woods and the last day at Hazeltine just don’t mix. Especially when it comes to putting.

— DRJ

33 Responses to “Golf’s Giant is Beaten”

  1. I had things to do this afternoon but I ended up glued to the TV. That was a great duel. The Yang guy kept his cool and even tossed a ball to the the crowd at one pointy after chipping in that fantastic eagle. Tiger looked rattled the whole back nine.

    I’ve played golf since I was nine but have had to give it up the past four years. I miss it.

    MIke K (addb13)

  2. Tiger had some distance issues with his irons today, so hbe hit some magnificent shots that were a hair too long, and a hair too long in a Major is generally bad news. He also burned more holes with his putter than I could count, actually I did count, at least 7 putts that burned the hole.

    Yang was outstanding. Sensational chip-in for eagle, but even more impressive was the bomb hybrid tight on 18, made even more impressive after the near collapse on 17.

    He won it as much as Tiger lost it. No doubt this one will burn El Tigre, and I expect him to be back with a vengence for the FedEx Cup and then the Presidents Cup.

    Congrats, Yang.

    JD (d51050)

  3. Yang’s approach and putt at 18 were awesome, esp after the drama of 17.

    The crowd could not have been more supportive.

    What a great finish.

    Tiger needs this. I wish he had a Watson, Palmer, Player or Trevino like Nicklaus did. He’s mythic but he needs a competitor or two who is more consistantly strong, especially on Sundays. So far all he has are Weiskopf, Moody and Geiberger wannabes.

    harkin (f92f52)

  4. Tiger shot a 67, 70, 71, 75…the trend was favorable…and Yang outplayed Tiger yesterday, not just today. Maybe Yang forgot he was supposed to be intimidated, or he doesn’t read or understand English so he wasn’t aware of it.

    Rory (edddec)

  5. I really really really do not like super cache. Not at all.

    JD (d0d3cb)

  6. Dan Jenkins’ tweet summed it up nicely:

    Tiger has now been second in six majors.Check out this crowd to beat him: Beem, Campbell, Zach Johnson, Cabrera, Immelman, Yang. Head dizzy?

    Not exactly the same as losing to a Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson or Irwin, is it? That’s not to suggest that Tiger isn’t the best there has ever been, but you can argue he hasn’t exactly had to face the greatest generation of golf.

    JVW (111cb0)

  7. Apologies — harkin made essentially the second point as my last paragraph.

    JVW (111cb0)

  8. harkin,

    I read an interview of Tom Watson where he attributed today’s lack of competition to the record purses in golf. He said pro golfers didn’t have to win to make a good living, so they don’t compete because they don’t need to. I know every generation of pro golfers bemoans the lack of money in their era compared to the next generation, but I think there’s something to what he says.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  9. DRJ (7:32 pm), I heard Dan Jenkins make the same point years ago. He was specifically talking about Phil Mikelson back before Mikelson had won his first major. He noted that Mikelson made $20 million per year through winning smaller tournaments, getting appearance fees, and endorsing products, so why should he bother busting his hump to win a major.

    JVW (111cb0)

  10. I disagree, with my friends here. Back in the Nicklaus, Player, Palmer, Trevino, and even into the Watson years, there were only a handful of golfers with a legitimate shot at winning week to week. That people have not been able to challenge Tiger in the same manner in no way diminishes his achievements. Guys like Els, singh, Goosen, Furyk, Love, Mickelson, Harrington, Perry, Montgomery, Ogilve, Cabrera would have been great golfers in any generation. I agree that money may have lessened some competitiveness, to a certain extent, but where Jack had 10 people in a tournament with a chance to win, Tiger has 150 with a real chance to win, and this has been proven over and over. The lack of name recognition of some of the winners is due to lack of coverage of people outside on the top 20 or 30. Guys like Rory, Fischer, Zack Johnson, Quiros will all make names for themselves soon, but the TV fan has no idea who they are.

    End rant

    JD (848ef6)

  11. Tiger’s untouchable presence post-knee surgery seems to be on the wane, and is eerily similar to what happened with Federer following his debilitating bout with that infection (mono, I think) last year. Both of them have shown a few fissures in that aura of invincibility thing, i.e., they now sometimes play like regular human types. And, another parallel is that they each now have that “family” factor for added distraction. I quite enjoyed both of them vaulting to the top of their sports, but will also find much interest in watching as their competition catches up with them. That is part of the fascination with individual sports for me. You still see the passion in both of them, so there should be a lot of drama left for all of us to revel in. But their crowns have been noticeably nicked up a bit, and I don’t think of that as a bad thing for either sport.

    political agnostic (f9d58f)

  12. JD,

    There are special golfers who stand above their peers — I put Ben Hogan in that category before his accident — but sometimes it seems most of today’s golfers are just mailing it in. Whether it’s due to money or something else, golfers don’t seem to have the same drive to win that Tiger has and Palmer, Nicklaus, and Trevino had.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  13. Excellent, JD, we haven’t had a good sports debate around here in some while. Allow me to make the case that this current crop of golfers is (pardon the pun) subpar.

    One of the more amazing stats about Nicklaus is not just his 20 wins in major’s, but his 19 second-place finishes. Compare this list of the winners when Nicklaus finished as the runner-up to the crew that Dan Jenkins listed in my 7:31 pm comment:

    Masters (4 times): Palmer, Charles Coody, Watson (twice)
    U.S. Open (4 times): Palmer, Trevino (twice), Watson
    British Open (7 times): Tony Lema, Roberto De Vicenzo, Player, Trevino, Johnny Miller, Watson, Seve Ballesteros
    PGA (4 times): Bobby Nichols, Dave Marr, Trevino, Hal Sutton

    No offense to the young players today, but I think that the best Rich Breem, Zach Johnson, et al. can hope for is to be compared to Charles Coody and Tony Lema, not Lee Trevino or Tom Watson.

    JVW (111cb0)

  14. DRJ – And that will get no argument from me. Tiger is clearly in that special category, and his will to win is part of what separates him. But guys like Els, Singh, Mickelson, and Furyk, though not on his level, are every bit as good as the people Jack competed against.

    JD (5b403b)

  15. Actually, JVW, I think your comment actually proves my point more thank you might expect. 11 of his 19 seconds came to Watson, Palmer, Trevino, and Player. The lasck of other names suggest a lack of overall depth for a top-heavy Tour back then. 2nd place is pretty meaningless in Majors 😉 but I suspect that when El Tigre wraps up his career, and has played an equivalent amount of Majors as Jack, he will have more wins and comparable number of 2nd place finishes.

    I play Hogans when I am swinging well, and he is still the player I try to model my swing after. And there is practically no limit to the amount of money I would pay to watch Tiger, Ben, Jack, and Bobby Jones play a competitive round together.

    JD (5b403b)

  16. And I am still quite made @ Callaway for not continuing the Hogan lines of clubs. I refuse to patronize any of their dirty little products until all of the Hogan lines are back in production.

    JD (459763)

  17. JD,

    I might even go you one better. I think most golfers today are better than in the past. They have better equipment, are often better conditioned and have better nutrition, may have started playing golf at a younger age, and generally have more time to spend on their craft. What they lack is competitiveness, and that’s why it’s so obvious and disappointing when they mail it in.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  18. Here are the names of the guys who won majors when Jack finished third: Tommy Aaron, Raymond Floyd, Billy Casper, Bob Charles, Player (twice), Watson, Don January, Lanny Wadkins. Consider some of the other names that overlapped Jack’s career — Ken Venturi, Tony Jacklin, Tom Weiskopf, Dave Stockton, Hale Irwin, Jerry Pate, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ben Crenshaw, Craig Stadler — and I may be showing my age, but I have a hard time thinking that Tiger would win less often in Jack’s era than he does in his own.

    Look at the number of majors won by the people who beat Jack during his run:

    Gary Player – 9
    Tom Watson – 8
    Arnold Palmer – 7
    Lee Trevino – 6
    Seve Ballesteros – 5
    Ray Floyd – 4
    Billy Casper – 3
    Hale Irwin – 3

    Put another way, those golfers combined to win 45 majors during Jack’s era. Singh and Mikelson, arguably the two best golfers that Tiger has faced, have each only won three. Add in Ernie Els and Jim Furyk and that total number rises to ten. Clearly it is Tiger, not Nicklaus, who is playing in the goldfish pond.

    As for me, I haven’t played in years. Best I ever got was about a 15 handicap, back when I was a teenager and playing three times a week in the summer. My major weakness was in never setting up the hole, just smacking the ball and hoping for the best.

    JVW (111cb0)

  19. Ah, I disagree. Scores are not significantly better today than they were at any other point in time, though I suspect that is primarily due to how much they have lengthened courses. Ten years ago 7000 yards was long, but there is a public course up the street from me that plays at just shy on 8000 yards from the tips. Hazeltine was at least 500 yards longer than it was when Payne Stewart won there.
    You were right when you brought up the lack of fire.

    JD (459763)

  20. DRJ, I may have a comment in the filter. Either that or I somehow ate it. It was a number-crunching argument on players in Jack’s era being better than Tiger’s era, with a comparison on how major championships were divided up.

    [I found it. — DRJ]

    JVW (111cb0)

  21. DRJ – I was in no way diminishing Tiger’s achievement. I think if he had a core group of elite competitors to face as Nicklaus did he would raise his game to an even higher level. I doubt he would have as many majors but he is still one of the five best golfers of the last hundred years and no one should consider that a putdown. I just wish it for the very reason today’s tournament was so much better than the normal Woods runaway win with the other competitors tanking.

    One thing I will say in Tiger’s favor, just before he came along you used to always hear the asinine golf commenters saying that there would never be another Nicklaus, Palmer or Hogan because the money was so big, equipment was so good and the players practiced so hard and approached the game with an almost scientific knowledge of factors that no one player would ever rise above the others as past greats had. Tiger blew that theory out of the water.

    As to second place, I love the story Johnny Miller tells of standing with Nicklaus at a big tournament (the Masters I think) where they had tied for 2nd place. Miller turned to Jack and said something like ‘hey, second place – not too shabby’ and Jack replied ‘f**k second place’.

    As to clubs of years past and discontinued, I miss Beauwood. I hit a drive to the edge of the green on a 300 yd par four last month (ok ok so I miffed my pitch and three-putted) with my 1980s Beryllium Copper BW #1.

    harkin (f92f52)

  22. harkin,

    I think it’s JD who is worried about Tiger’s achievements. I agree with you that he doesn’t have much competition. There are good golfers out there who could be competitive, but they don’t seem to want to make the effort to actually be competitive.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  23. And preemptively to JD:

    I think there’s a good chance Tiger would beat them much of the time, but he hasn’t been pushed so we really don’t know.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  24. He sells products. Microsoft should get him involved in Windows 7. No one ever listens to me though.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  25. Racists. You are just hating on him because he is not lilly white. Admit it.

    😉

    As I said, I would pay crap loads of money to watch Tiger beat them. 😉

    Actually, this type of argument happens in every sport when trying to compare/contrast people of different generations. Rarely can you compare them well, as the sports have all changed much. The games played today are much different than 20, 30, 40 etc years back.

    Despite my love of discussing sports, I wish it was still okay to simply say someone is the best of their era, and leave it at that.

    JD (459763)

  26. Michael Jordan, but at basketball — not golf.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  27. And Babe Zaharias in women’s golf.

    DRJ (d8773e)

  28. Michael Jordan is one of my exceptions to that, DRJ. He is the single greatest to ever play the game. And anyone that argues otherwise is a liberal 😉

    JD (4a0e60)

  29. The current most dominant athlete in his sport demonstrated it today. 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters by Usain Bolt.

    JoeH (eeb280)

  30. Woods and day four at Hazeltine don’t mix..esp when it comes to putting……you had just written that he made birdie on the last four holes the last time. Tough to make birdie while putting badly.

    Gary Wishon (f58938)

  31. The courses have been changed so radically to suit the new clubs that old farts like me have to find courses we can still play. I was a member of a Gary Player designed club in San Clemente for about 10 years that was perfect for my game. When I was 15, I could get within a wedge of a 449 par four at Glenwoodie, a public course south of Chicago that I played every day. That was with wooden woods and “English” balls that we used when we could find them. They were a tiny bit smaller than US balls.

    By the time I was 60, I was lucky to hit it 235 with a new Calloway metal driver. But I could hit it straight. This club in San Clemente was going broke because the young guys with the long drives but wild direction would lose a dozen balls a round there. Tiger is encouraging that trend of very long drives that makes the game less fun for older players. The game has been in trouble in the US for some time because it is too “difficult” for too many new players. It is booming in Asia and Yang’s win is going to be a huge thing over there. Even though he lives in Dallas.

    Mike K (addb13)

  32. It seems like the high purses would make people try harder to finish higher and get more, but that doesn’t seem to happen. Lucas Glover looked like he was late for a show the way he was going and he could have finished third if he bothered to line up some shots.

    CAL (9dbc16)

  33. Tiger Woods always brings in the fans.

    Technology (6ac3dc)


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