Golden Oldies Who Defied Their Age in Golf
PHIL MICKELSON struck a blow for the golden oldies when he defeated Justin Thomas to win the WGC-Mexico Championship at the ripe old age of 47 – and promptly announced that he is playing the best golf of his life. Mickelson is the oldest player to win a World Golf Championship title but he is by no means the oldest to win a regular tournament. Here we look at some of the golfers who have proved that age need be no barrier to competing on level terms with the young guns.
Snead was 52 years, 10 months and 8 days old when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open, making him the oldest champion in PGA Tour history. His final victory in the tournament came 27 years after his first also set a record, for most years between first and last wins in the same PGA Tour tournament. Snead was two off the lead after an opening 68, then tied for the 36-hole lead with Billy Casper following a second-round 69. Snead took a two-stroke lead after a third-round 68, then added another 68 in the fourth round and won by five strokes.
Boros remains the oldest man to win a major. He was 48 when he won the 1968 US PGA Championship, beating the record held by Jerry Barber, who won the same event in 1961 when he was 45. Half of Boros' 18 career PGA Tour wins came after turning 40, including, at age 43, the 1963 U.S. Open. When he was 53, he shared the lead in the 1973 U.S. Open with 10 holes to play before finishing seventh.
The Golden Bear won The Masters in 1986 when he was 46 years old. It was the 18th and final major of his astonishing career and came courtesy of an astonishing charge on the final nine holes at Augusta when he stormed through the field. He birdied the ninth, 10th and 11th holes and then eagled the 15th and nearly holed in one at the par three 16th. Remarkably, Nicklaus then drained a downhill, breaking putt at the 17th and parred the 18th to come home in 30 for a round of 65. Save Ballesteros saw his chances come to grief when he dumped his approach at the 15th into the water. Greg Norman came to the 18th needing a par to force a playoff but missed the green with his approach and took three more to get down. Nicklaus was the champion.
32 years after defeating Jack Nicklaus in the Duel in the Sun of 1977, Tom Watson returned to Turnberry at the age of 59, and miraculously featured on the leaderboard all week, leading the Open Championship after 54-holes. The eight-time major champion incredibly had a putt to win the Claret Jug for a record sixth time, but missed, ultimately losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink. It would have been the greatest of stories. Watson later set a record for making the cut in the Open in 2014 aged 64, in addition to shooting a round of 67 aged 60 at Augusta National during the Masters of 2010.
When the Northern Irishman turned professional his overriding ambition was to win The Open Championship. He came close a couple of times but his chance appeared to have been and gone when he arrived at Royal St George’s in 2011. He had won 14 times on the European Tour, three times in Japan and had triumphed in two World Golf Championship events, as well as representing Europe in the Ryder Cup five times. But in 2011 he had no form to speak of and was a 100-1 outsider, but nobody bother to tell Clarke, who was 42 at the time. For four days he played brilliant golf and duly won the Claret Jug, which he dedicated to his late wife, Heather, who died of cancer in 2006.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
The Spaniard is a bit like the red wine he enjoys so much – he seems to get better with age. He has won 21 times on the European Tour, with 14 of those victories coming since he turned 40. In 2012 he won his 19th European Tour event at the UBS Hong Kong Open, to become the oldest winner on the European Tour at the age of 48. In December 2013 he retained his title and broke his own record as the European Tour's oldest winner, and he still wasn’t finished. In May 2014 he extended his record as the oldest champion on the European Tour, securing his first triumph in the Open de Espana at the age of 50.
Stricker twice won the PGA Tour’s comeback player of the year title. Nine of his 12 PGA Tour titles came after he turned 40 and although he is now a part-time player he remains as competitive as ever, still blessed with a glorious touch on the greens. In a purple patch between 2009 and 2012, Stricker won eight tournaments, the last of them coming at the Tournament of Champions in 2012 when he was 45 years old.
Now aged 55, Singh still competes on the PGA Tour, and does so with some success. He is another whose career was transformed when he hit 40. He won an astonishing 22 tournaments after his 40th birthday, including the US PGA Championship in 2004. In 2008, when he was 45 years old, Singh won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship. He attributes his ongoing success to the huge amount of work he does on the practice ground – even now, Singh probably hits more golf balls than any other tour professional.
Roberto de Vicenzo
The legendary Argentinian golfer nearly won The Masters in 1968 at the age of 46, missing out on a playoff after signing for an incorrect score. De Vicenzo won 231 times in an extraordinary career. He had an astonishing record in The Open, finishing third in 1948 and 1949. He finally won the Claret Jug at Hoylake in 1967 at the age of 44 years and 93 days and finished no worse than 17th in each of the following four years. In 1977, at the age of 54, he finished in a tie for 48th place.
Irwin is one of only a handful of golfers to have won official tournaments on all six continents on which golf is played. He won 20 times on the PGA Tour and a record 45 times on the PGA Tour. He had a wonderful record in the US Open, which he won three times. His first victory came in 1974 and he added a second title five years later. The American won his third and final US Open in 1990, becoming the oldest ever champion at the age of 45 when he defeated Mike Donald in a playoff.
The American built a reputation as being one of the straightest hitters on the PGA Tour but he was also one of the shortest. However, it didn’t prevent him from winning eight times on the PGA Tour between 1992 and 2007 and accumulating more than $21m in career prize money. His final regular victory came at the Mayakoba Classic against a top field when Funk was 50 years eight months and 12 days of age. He has since gone on to enjoy a fine career on the Champions Tour, winning three senior majors.
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