Thursday, October 6, 2016, marked 20 years since Tiger Woods first won a professional golf tournament in Las Vegas, a city that exists to provide former superstars with a comeback annuity. It also marked 410 days since Woods last struck a shot on the PGA Tour—not since the final round of the Wyndham Championship in August 2015, when he stumbled late in his bid for an 80th career win, which would have left him just two shy of Sam Snead’s record tally.
His tie for 10th that Sunday was the best finish of Woods’s year, but a few weeks later he underwent two back surgeries and retreated to rehab.
His eagerly awaited return comes at the Safeway Open in Napa, California, this Thursday, October 13, by which point 3,041 days will have passed since Woods won a tournament he really cared about (the 2008 United States Open, his 14th major title). Since then, he has been in a long, steady decline widely mistaken for a series of slumps and injury layoffs.
Like many of the small vacation towns that dot Scotland’s coast, Troon seems an awfully bleak place to anyone who isn’t Scottish. The once-thriving shipbuilding industry has long since departed, leaving behind a charmless port trafficked mainly by ferries and freight containers. But only the visitors seem to notice the biting wind and stormy squalls that rip in off the North Atlantic and across the Firth of Clyde with a dispiriting predictability. And that’s in summer.
In winter, it is so desolate you can hear dogs barking in Reykjavik.
Superman teed off with a one-stroke lead in the Masters Tournament on Sunday, but as is often the case in the final round at Augusta National, it was a shell-shocked and defeated Clark Kent who staggered home.
Jordan Spieth had been atop the Masters leaderboard for the better part of three years. On his debut in 2014, he finished second. He won wire-to-wire in 2015, a dominance that continued through the first three rounds this year. By the time he turned for home at 5:05 p.m. this Sunday, Spieth’s lead was five shots. But for every dream realized on the closing holes at Augusta National, several nightmares are made real. By 5:50 p.m., the coronation had become a crucifixion.
Major championships are golf’s most unforgiving coliseums, exposing every weakness and insecurity in order to identify and then celebrate the player most worthy of a victory that both defines and elevates a career. But only on Sunday evening. And only for one player.
For the rest of the competitors, majors usually bring varying degrees of misery, battles against expectations they can’t meet, elements they can’t control or demons they thought vanquished. Especially at the Masters, which began Thursday in Augusta, Georgia.
The Masters Tournament, the 80th edition of which begins Thursday in Augusta, Georgia, attracts the drive-by golf fans, those who tend toward an abridged, Augusta-centric version of history. In this CliffsNotes chronicle, Jack deposed Arnie in the ’60s and ruled until his epic Masters victory at age 46, 30 years ago.
Après Jack? A period of unremarkable parity until the Tiger era commenced.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods will be at Augusta National this week for the Masters, but physical frailty—induced by age and injury—consigns all three to ceremonial cameos. That leaves the role of sentimental favorite to Tom Watson, who will make his 43rd and final Masters appearance. His farewell offers a timely reminder to casual fans that Nicklaus was himself overthrown by a young rival, one who has aged into the sport’s most durable and complicated icon.
Yesterday I posted a photo on Twitter that seemed of interest to many people, though admittedly fewer than were drawn to Mrs. Kanye’s latest overexposed selfie.
It was a handwritten fax I had received from the great Sam Snead. That it was a fax dates the document almost as much as the identify of its author. Snead died May 23, 2002, four days shy of his 90th birthday.
The single page—sent at 6:34 P.M. on July 14, 2000—recounts the eight strokes Snead took on the last hole to lose the 1939 United States Open at Philadelphia Country Club. Sixty-one years had passed and the wound was no less fresh.
During a week in which Donald Trump sparred with the Pope, accused George W. Bush of lying us into the Iraq War, and repeated (favorably) a debunked tale of Muslims being shot with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, you can be forgiven for failing to notice his throwaway comment about tiny tuber crops.
But for many golf fans, those two words represent the “hope” and “change” of this election season.
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — This is a town for ghosts. Some of them are even dead.
You’ll see and hear them aplenty if you wander around the Old Course, this fabled spit of land where golf has been played since the 1500s and which this week hosts the Open Championship for the 29th time.
A few feet to the right of the 18th green sits a small building in the familiar grey stone style that might convince visiting aliens that Scottish law permits just one architecture style and bans paint entirely. That is the pro shop of Old Tom Morris. Or it was. Today it sells an eponymous upscale clothing line, somewhat ironically since extensive photographs of Morris suggest he never passed the front door in anything except the same heavy wool jacket.
Great athletes seldom receive a grandstand finish worthy of their storied careers. Sure, Ted Williams homered in his last at bat at Fenway, and Derek Jeter’s final swing at Yankee Stadium was a game winner. But Babe Ruth grounded out, and Nolan Ryan left in the top of the first with a torn ligament and five runs on the board.
Golf is particularly pitiless with its legends. It keeps them around much longer than other sports, eroding a little more skill with each passing year, but leaving just enough for them to think there are still glory days ahead.