Age is just a number, unless you are a golfer chasing a major title. Thirty is the old 40, an age where accomplishments are more in the rear-view mirror and the physical wear and tear is becoming obvious. Twenty is the old 30, where confidence and explosiveness are leading to a player’s prime.
The power era is here, rendering veterans more obsolete than ever when it comes to winning golf’s biggest events… Unless you are talking about The Open Championship.
Crunch on these numbers:
- Since 2011, five of the six winners of The Open Championship have been 39 or older. Four were 40 or older at the time of victory. The average age of those winners is 38.5
- Since 2011, in the other three major championships, ZERO of the 20 winners have been 39 or older. The average age of those winners is 28.7.
Twenty is the old 30.
That age gap offers a glimpse into the (r)evolution of professional golf. Those players in their 20s and 30s grew up in the power explosion of the game. ‘Swing hard and figure it out’ has replaced ‘dig it out of the dirt.’ Fitness, cockiness and preparedness has molded greatness out of what was once just unawareness.
Yet, through it all, The Open Championship has offered the greatest defense against the new era of golf. How?
“A lot of the younger guys are physically gifted, but they don't have the experience with links golf,” two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington said. “Assuming decent, tough enough conditions, it's a tournament for experience. Everybody can compete; short and long hitters. It's not one dimensional, The Open Championship.”
Contributing to that uniqueness is the fact that the art of playing links golf is not necessary to have a successful golf career, even for players in Europe. Everybody hits it high now, but who can control his ball when the shot has to be played on the ground?
Sandy soil, unforgiving bunker edges, gorse, you name it, Open Championship golf requires more than just talent.
“I guess these kind of courses probably don't require something that maybe a U.S. Open or a PGA [Championship], where you have to hit the ball much farther,” Sergio Garcia said. “I think that probably all guys with a bit more experience in those conditions have a little bit of a better chance.”
It seems fitting that the tournament that represents the founding of the sport is the one hanging on to its elder statesmen as champs. Somebody will turn back the clock this week and nobody should be surprised.