While watching the final round of The Players Championship, I heard an announcer question whether or not David Toms could go the distance this particular Sunday, a long, tiring day in which both third and final rounds were being decided. Because of his age, would Toms tire as he progressed through the back nine?
I reacted by posting a similar question to Twitter but without the age variant, wondering if Toms could hold on for the nine remaining holes to win The Players. Responses ranged from simple yet effective "yes" to "yes, he is cagey" @BobFriend_golf. No one mentioned that age may play a factor in his defeat.
And why should it? Forty-four year old Toms is certainly not old yet he has had his share of career-limiting physical ailments. Even so, age was not the reason why David missed a three-footer on the first playoff hole at TPC Sawgrass, handing over a well-deserved win to K.J. Choi.
KJ Choi and David Toms 2011 The Players
His wife Sonya's telltale thought, "You get to this stage in your career..." coupled with remarks from his caddie Scott Gneiser, "He got to the point where he was maybe kind of going through the motions," spoke volumes about what might have been rummaging through Toms' conscience. David even added that he was basically in the event to show his son how its done, not necessarily for himself.
Age limitations do play a factor in every professional golfers career but not necessarily in a physical sense. The lingering question as to "how much good golf is left?" may creep thoughts into the mental game in a sport where the median age on the PGA Tour is 30-35 years-old. Mistakes also come easier as older golfers choose the wrong shot, thinking they can still "go for it" realizing afterwards that a safer approach may have yielded far better results.
The right attitude can help diffuse the signs of aging. After forty-six-year-old Paul Goydos' third-place finish at The Players, he made reference to his age but also that this finish is something that he "can build on," adding "I'm getting to that age where I need to find something to hang onto. I don't feel old"
"No, that's a lie. I feel old." Goydos continued, "But I didn't feel old until this year. Playing bad does that to you. I've got a great job, and I'm going to keep trying to do it."
Goydos hit the nail on the head...playing bad and squandering chances make you feel old!
Media plays up the angle of age versus youth as in the battle between 47-year old Miguel Angel Jimenez - Lee Westwood on the European Tour at the Ballantine's Championship. The strut and swagger of Jimenez forced naysayers to comment on the "coolness" of Jimenez not believing that age was a factor; Westwood merely performed better that week.
That being said, with a fan base in golf getting younger all of the time, forty-something players like Toms are paving the way for a new generation of golfers like McIlroy, Fowler and Manassero. Kids identify with the coolness of the clothes, the connection on Twitter and the fact that their parents don't necessarily like the change. Hopefully, this infusion of youth will take the game to the next level.
Winner of The Players, forty-year-old KJ Choi, when asked after his win about the ability to compete and win, had advice for the younger generation of professional golfers:
"You have to be very regimented in order to have a long career out here on the TOUR.I was able to focus, I was able to maintain physically and mentally my body very well. And I felt like I still had the confidence that I could play well out there. I train hard, I practice hard, and I think all the young players need to do that.And I think you need to live your life to the fullest. And when I say that, I don't mean partying all the time. Live a systematic, regimented life, always be humble. That's my motto."
As for David Toms' performance this week at The Players Championship, he was the 36-hole leader and could hardly be considered "old". "No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, no nothing," Toms said of his three-putt bogey on the first sudden-death playoff hole. "Maybe a lot of pressure. But other than that, there was no excuse."
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