Spieth and Ko Aside, Resurrections Are Rare, Even For The Greats.

Among the plentiful clichés permeating golf commentary, there is none more kindly yet bromidic than the assertion that a slumping star will win again simply because he or she is too good not to. It’s a polite fiction, peddled about almost every prominent professional who achieved early success only to plunge into, if not obscurity, then at least irrelevance. As analysis, it lies somewhere between sentimentality and sycophancy, but nowhere close to sound.

Golf’s recent run of resurrections began—appropriately enough, for those particular to the low-hanging fruit such narratives represent—on Easter Sunday, when Jordan Spieth won the Valero Texas Open for his first victory in almost four years. A week later, Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters triumph ended a drought of similar duration. And on Saturday, Lydia Ko completed the trifecta (or trinity) with a seven-stroke romp at the LPGA’s Lotte Championship after three years wandering the desert in search of a title.

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End Free Passes For Tour Pros, Make Match Play Wednesday’s Worth Watching Again!

Welcome to the only week of the year when the PGA Tour’s ardent free-marketeers develop a sudden appreciation for a safety net from the authorities. Specifically, the free passes issued for the first round of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the day on which so many stars used to be dispatched early.

Now Wednesday’s losers live to fight another day. I blame Hunter Mahan and Victor Dubuisson.

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It’s Okay To Ask: Is This The End of Tiger’s Career?

It’s in the arbitrary nature of sport that even legends seldom exit the stage on a high note.

There are exceptions, sure.

Ted Williams homered in his last at-bat. Pete Sampras went home with the U.S. Open trophy. Lorena Ochoa quit as No. 1 in the world.

More often, great careers peter out with a ground ball like Babe Ruth’s, a series of increasingly disappointing results that finally force a reckoning with the passage of time. Those are the good endings. Others are involuntary, authored by injury or accident. Like that of Maureen Connolly, who won nine Grand Slams but saw her career end with a horse-riding accident at age 19, two weeks after winning her third straight Wimbledon singles title.

When news emerged about Tiger Woods’ car crash on Tuesday there was a clear and immediate delineation between Woods the man and Woods the golfer, with much of the focus rightly on the former and his physical well-being. An absence of detailed information about his condition, married to the visual of catastrophic damage to his vehicle, ensured that human concern was front and center.

As the day wore achingly on, that angle grew incrementally more positive with news that his injuries were not life-threatening. One could heave a sigh of relief for Woods the man.

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Requiem For A Golfer You Didn’t Know.

Silver died today. You won’t find his given name, Graham McAleer, in a history book next to a catalogue of accomplishments, or engraved underfoot on a plaque at some gilded golf course. But he left a mark on this game, at least in my corner of it.

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Angry About Patrick Reed’s Rules Antics? Imagine If You Had A Bet On It.

It’s almost awe-inspiring how Patrick Reed can slough off rules controversies with the unruffled disdain that one imagines Uday and Qusay greeted parking tickets in once-upon-a-time Baghdad.

Perhaps a man develops bulletproof confidence in the face of firing squads when he knows others are paid to throw themselves in front of the fusillade. How else to explain the scale of self-assurance that permits a professional golfer to palm his own ball, poke around in the ball mark, declare it was embedded, after it bounced, in 3-inch rough, with only cursory input from playing partners and none from rules officials, on live television, while leading a PGA Tour event.

The incident on the 10th hole at Torrey Pines during Saturday’s CBS broadcast lacked the clarity of Reed’s brazen bunker misadventure in the Bahamas in 2019. The video is inconclusive: viewers couldn’t see if Reed’s ball was in fact embedded, and the rules official wasn’t presented a fair opportunity to make that determination since Reed had already moved it. Less ambiguous is the growing sentiment that Patrick Reed’s relationship to the rules of golf mirrors that of a courtesan to her clothes—as something to occasionally be cloaked in for respectability, but otherwise an impediment to the conduct of business.

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Justin Thomas Learned Something This Week. Everyone Else? Not So Much.

Justin Thomas doesn’t seem the type to read Oscar Wilde, but he might nevertheless wince at the painful truth in the Irish author’s acid observation that experience is the hardest teacher because it gives the exam first and the lesson afterward.

Barely two weeks in and 2021 is already delivering a tough (and expensive) lesson to the world No. 3, who was dumped by Ralph Lauren in the wake of an incident at the Sentry Tournament of Champions when he audibly muttered a homophobic slur after missing a putt.

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As Trump Is Driven From The White House, He Should Find No Safe Harbor In Golf.

When historians eventually tally the cost of the Donald Trump era, the manifold indecencies of which culminated in Wednesday’s sacking of the United States Capitol during a failed insurrection, golf will not be counted among its casualties.

The game will instead be portrayed as Trump’s refuge, something he did while ignoring a pandemic that has claimed 365,000 lives, refusing to acknowledge a resounding electoral defeat, and inciting feeble-minded fascists to violence that left five people dead at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

That’s the best case scenario.

The alternative? That a sport which prides itself on values like honesty, integrity and devotion to the rules will be characterized as a welcoming sanctuary for a brazen and amoral insurrectionist, a world in which a racist con man was never discomfited, even while taking a wrecking ball to the constitution and the rule of law.

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Rickie Fowler A Cautionary Tale In Overexposing A Superstar.

Oftentimes, the most revealing number in a professional golfer’s ledger isn’t one found among the many Strokes Gained categories, those statistics that speak to fairways, greens and putts, but not to a man’s drive, devotion or distractions. With the enigma that is Rickie Fowler, the most illuminating figure is this: 11 years into his career, he has more commercial sponsors than PGA Tour victories.

And it’s not even close.

There was a period when Fowler’s ample screen time on Sunday afternoons was earned through his fine play. Now that time is paid for by a seemingly endless parade of partners confident that Fowler can help them sell everything from insurance and automobiles to mortgages and underwear. It’s the Arnold Palmer business model, and more power to Fowler for leveraging it so astutely. But at what cost to his career?

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Nicklaus Support Of Trump Will Linger Beyond Election Day.

It’s difficult to discern what most disappointed the fans of Jack Nicklaus who declared themselves upset by his endorsement of Donald Trump: that Nicklaus held such a view, or that he voiced it. Because neither can be at all considered a surprise.

Expressions of shock that a wealthy, 80-year-old Florida country clubber supports Trump demand a particularly melodramatic strand of pearl-clutching, but that didn’t deter critics who rounded on Nicklaus in an episode that exposed ample willful delusions to go around.

Start with those golf fans who apparently assumed that the on-course qualities for which they lionized the 18-time major champion—winning with class, losing with grace, abiding professionalism and decency—would be equally evident in his choice of presidential candidate. That such is not the case says less about Nicklaus than about the fatuous nature of sports idolatry, in which credulous people expect their heroes to embody virtues entirely unrelated to their high accomplishment in the arena.

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A Major Champion Says Farewell, With No Fanfare.

The asterisk is sport’s scarlet letter, an otherwise benign symbol that when appended suggests a specific achievement is, at best, diminished and, at worst, outright tainted.

Some asterisks are warranted, of course. The name of Mark McGwire* should never appear without one. But not all asterisks are used to denote accomplishments earned by dishonorable means. Some are deployed more as a means to highlight quirks of fate or the foibles of others.

My personal favorite belongs to a horse called Foinavon, which won Britain’s Grand National, in 1967. Every other horse running was involved in a pile-up at the 23rd fence (of 30), providing the jockey riding Foinavon – a long-shot that had been trailing badly – ample time to navigate the melee and cruise to a 15-length victory.

Too frequently these days, asterisks are just churlish attempts to detract from high achievement for the sake of cheap debate. Like the one some critics gleefully attach to Roger Federer’s lone victory at Roland Garros in 2009 because he didn’t beat Rafa Nadal on his way to the trophy. Similarly junky efforts are occasionally evident in golf too.

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Bryson Dechambeau Risks Being Stuck With A Tough Rep.

Every sport needs a Tom Brady, an Alex Rodriguez, a Kevin Garnett—athletes whose accomplishments win the admiration of some but whose acts and attitudes earn the loathing of many.

Hate figures supply one of the main arteries in sports fandom, permitting us to really savor those moments when karma kicks them in the teeth. It’s not a noble sentiment worthy of the Olympic Creed, but disasters inflicted on antagonists bring almost as much joy as the triumphs of heroes.

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Bryson Dechambeau, Gobshite.

It’s one of life’s more reliable axioms that if a man has to tell you he’s a good dude, there’s a fair chance he is actually an insufferable gobshite.

During Saturday’s third round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Bryson DeChambeau — who prides himself on seeing things the rest of us simply cannot grasp — took issue with a camera operator for, well, operating a camera. On the 7th hole, the surly pseudoscientist hit a mediocre greenside bunker shot and angrily threw his club — manufactured by Cobra and available from all good stockists — into the sand. After marking his ball —brought to you by Bridgestone — he had a testy exchange with a camera operator who captured this, before storming to the 8th tee in a pair of stylish Puma shoes.

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Golf’s Time For Silence Has Passed, And Even Tiger Knows It.

In the run-up to the 2016 Ryder Cup, a friend of mine sat in a meeting during which a senior golf industry executive wondered aloud about the possibility that a member of the U.S. team might take a knee during the ceremonies to protest racial injustice. It was a laughable notion, since the only issues on which PGA Tour players have been apt to take a stand are slow play and high taxes.

Times change.

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The Match II: A Shark-Free Affair

It’s been 25 years since Medalist Golf Club last appeared on national television, when Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf pitted then-world No. 1 Nick Price against Greg Norman, the world No. 2 and founder of the newly opened club.

On May 24, the exclusive Florida enclave hosts another made-for-TV affair with Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning taking on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.

Just don’t expect to see Greg Norman anywhere.

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Ryder Cup Buddy System Rides Again

It was after the 2014 Ryder Cup debacle in Scotland — a week during which Phil Mickelson’s most effective shots came during the losing team’s press conference when he targeted skipper Tom Watson — that the American team decided to crowdsource the captaincy.

The PGA of America created an oft-mocked task force to reverse U.S. fortunes in the biennial event. Another undeclared objective was to ensure that future players wouldn’t be denied hugs or high fives from some grizzled legend who thought the only inspiration they needed was to see the Stars & Stripes run up the pole.

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U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Steve Stricker.

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