with Robert Bicknell
According to Greg Norman in a recent interview, far too many of PGA Tour players are "sheep", unwilling to go for broke and content to just stand in the meadow munching grass and collecting checks. Pretty fair assessment or nasty slur?
There has been an adage on the Tour for a very long time - "Play for second place and hope the leader chokes."
While this kinda shoulda makes sense, because there is less pressure in the second slot than having the entire field gunning for you, it also means that you are not taking fate into your own hands, but hoping the leader will throw up all over himself down the stretch and you can just waltz into the win.
Would Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Sam Snead or Tiger Woods ever consider doing this?
Not a chance in Hell. Those guys played to win.
OK, granted, there was a lot less money on the tour back then so every extra dollar helped feed the family and the difference between first and second place was, and still is, substantial. Also, there wasn't much in the way of sponsorship money, except for the very top players. If lucky, a manufacturer would create a custom set with the player's name on them.
Nowadays, according to Arnold Palmer, anytime a player wins a tournament, it seems like the first thing he does is run out and buy himself a plane. Yes, it's ironic that Arnold Palmer started this trend, but c'mon, it was Arnie and he deserved it.
I have long postulated that when Tiger Woods came onto the scene, he caught all the other players flatfooted and blew past them. They also realized that Tiger Woods was good for golf in regards to bigger tournament purses. They also realized that the more Tiger won, the more money would flow into everyone's pockets. Thus, they rolled over and played dead on command.
Yes, I realise that a lot of people are screaming "blasphemy!" and shooting their morning cornflakes and coffee out of their nose or screaming for my immediate lynching, but the fact remains that an inordinate amount of pros were content to settle for second place.
This is NOT to say that Tiger Woods wasn't as good as people thought. He was (past tense). Tiger Woods was a legitimate predator on the course. He had amazing skills (again past tense) and he played to win.
But if you notice, Tiger's Ryder Cup record was pretty poor and the simple reason for that is that the European players respected Tiger, but they weren't afraid of him and damn sure were not about to lie down for him. If he only had a bad record overseas, that would be understandable, but it was also poor when the Ryder Cup was on US soil. So it wasn't conditions, but the nature of the opponents. Nor was Tiger a choker… not a chance.
Of course, there were quite a few US players who refused to lie down for Tiger. Phil Mickelson, David Duval and a few others played to win no matter what, so Tiger didn't win every time he teed it up, but it sure seemed like he did.
There was a recent claim, since retracted, by a former Tour pro that Tiger was suspended for PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) and other erroneous claims. Granted, there was a time when Tiger looked huge, but that was from working out, not steroids. In fact, steroids wouldn't help a golfer much.
While I have nothing but the highest regard for Greg Norman, it must be remembered that not everyone can BE Greg Norman with a "no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, second place is for pussies" attitude.
It should also be remembered that as great as Norman was, he shot himself out of a lot of tournaments with his go for broke style of play. It made him famous, but also cost him a lot of majors.
Tour professionals continually calculate the odds during a round. They pick the safest route to avoid putting up a big score should disaster strike.
Sometimes, second place is simply good enough, especially when you have a family to feed…
And jet fuel to buy. — VNS