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Golfers Prove That Life Really Does Begin at 40

By: | Wed 22 Jan 2020 | Comments

Lee Westwood struck a blow for the golden oldies when he won the Abu Dhabi Championship at the age of 46, reviving hopes of another Ryder Cup appearance for the veteran Englishman. It was his second big success in 15 months after his victory at the 2018 Nedbank Challenge. Golf is a game that can be played at the highest level by anybody who has retained some level of fitness, and there are a host of golfers who have enjoyed some incredible success since turning 40. Here we look at 10 of them.

Vijay Singh

The Fijian holds the record for the most wins on the PGA Tour after turning 40, with a scarcely credible 22 victories. Singh turned 40 on February 22, 2003. At that point, he had won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including two majors. After turning 40, Singh won another 22 PGA Tour tournaments, including one more major. So nearly two-thirds of his career total of 34 came after the age of 40. In 2004, at the age of 41, Singh won an incredible nine times and he followed that up with a further five victories in 2005. His final win came at the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship, when he was 45 years old.

Miguel Angel Jimenez

Jimenez improved with age. He won 21 European Tour titles and played on two victorious Ryder Cup teams, as well as being a vice-captain. Fourteen of his wins came after he turned 40 and he holds the record as the oldest winner on tour, claiming the Spanish Open in May 2014 when he was 50 years old. And he still believes that he is quite capable of winning again.

Jack Nicklaus

The greatest golfer of them all won 18 majors and the most famous of them all came in 1986, when he won The Masters at the ripe old age of 46. He arrived at Augusta with no form to speak of, and even he later admitted that he had no expectations. But he defied the odds when he came home in 30 shots to break the hearts of Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman and claim what remains probably the most memorable tournament ever played at Augusta.

Tiger Woods

Woods had been stuck on 14 majors since winning the US Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines when he required 91 gruelling holes to overcome Rocco Mediate. It later emerged that he had done so on a broken leg. A series of disasters followed. His personal life fell apart and so did his body. There was also an arrest for being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. But, against all the odds, he battled back. He had career-saving back fusion surgery and, lo and behold, came back and won the Tour Championship in 2018. That would have been remarkable enough but, at the age of 43, he returned to Augusta in April 2019 and won The Masters, taking his major tally to 15.

Ben Hogan

Hogan won nine majors. Those are the bare facts, and they are impressive enough. But then you learn that the American nearly lost his life in a horrific car crash in 1949. Doctors warned him that he may never walk again, far less ever be able to pick up a golf club. But Hogan was determined to prove them wrong. He worked his way back to fitness and adapted his technique. He won the US Open in 1950 and 1951 and The Masters in 1951 but it was in 1953, at the age of 40, that he had the best year of his career, winning The Masters, US Open and Open Championship. And he would probably have won the US PGA Championship too, but for the fact that it was staged at the same time as The Open. Hogan won a total of five times in 1953.

Phil Mickelson

Lefty started the 2020 season with 44 PGA Tour victories to his credit. And as he approached the age of 50 he remained as competitive as ever, still hitting the ball prodigious distances, but still never really certain where it was going to finish, especially with the driver in his hands. But he retained his remarkable powers of recovery, boasting one of the best short games we have ever seen. Mickelson has won five majors and famously finished second in the US Open six times. His victory in The Open Championship in 2013 came when he was 43, and he finished runner-up to Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon in 2016, aged 46. He has won six times in his forties.

Sam Snead

Snead was a serial winner, claiming an astonishing 82 titles on the PGA Tour, with 17 of those coming after he hit 40, and he achieved several other milestones that will surely never be matched. He is the oldest winner in PGA Tour history at the age of 52 and shot his age when he was 67. He also finished third in the US PGA Championship in 1974 when he was 62 years old.

Steve Stricker

Stricker had an unusual career, to say the least, twice being named Comeback Player of the Year, the second of those coming in 2007 when he was 40 years old. He won 11 times on the PGA Tour, with eight of those coming after he turned 40. His three Ryder Cup appearances also came after he was 40. And there were seven top-eight finishes in the majors for good measure. Now in his 50s, he still plays with distinction on the PGA Tour.

Kenny Perry

Perry had an idiosyncratic golf swing. It served him well enough in a career that saw him record 14 PGA Tour victories. But Perry really put his foot down when he turned 40, winning 11 times. He made his Ryder Cup debut when he was 44 and played again four years later. He came within a whisker of making history at The Masters in 2009. Perry led by two with two holes to play but dropped shots at the 17th and 18th and ended up in a playoff with Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell. Cabrera would go on to win, thus denying Perry the chance to become the oldest winner at 48 years, eight months and two days.

Ray Floyd

Floyd won four majors, the last of which was the 1986 US Open at the age of 43. He also lost in a playoff to Nick Faldo at The Masters in 1990 In 1992, Floyd again finished runner-up at The Masters, two strokes behind Fred Couples. His final win on the PGA Tour came at the Doral Ryder Open in 1992, when he was 49. That win also gave him the  rare distinction of winning PGA Tour events in four decades. He was also a member of the winning US Ryder Cup team in 1993 at the age of 51.

Other notables include Julius Boros, with 10 wins in his 40s, Arnold Palmer (eight), Gene Littler (seven) and Dutch Harrison (seven).

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