Column: Tiger’s resurgence thrills fans, but he’s still looking up at these 40-something wonders

By Gary Peterson - The Mercury News

This just in: Tiger Woods is playing competitive golf again after years of physical infirmities and personal peccadillos.

No, the 42-year-old hasn’t won a PGA Tour tournament since 2013. And yes, his most recent triumph in a major was in 2008 — before iPads, Kindles, Hoverboards and self-driving cars.

People cheered Tiger’s tie for second place in the recent Valspar Championship, and his subsequent fifth-place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. They’re excited, and they just can’t hide it.

Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion told TMZ, “Oh, Tiger’s back. I love it. I have a great opinion on Tiger.”

What, not a credible enough endorsement? Then let’s throw it to Christopher McDonald, who played the antagonist in the cinematic masterstroke that was “Happy Gilmore.”

“I’m so happy for my man Tiger doing it like he does,” McDonald told TMZ after the Valspar tournament. “It was so close. He could have won that last one. It was amazing.”

John Daly, winner of two majors, thinks Woods is a favorite to win the upcoming Masters.

“I honestly think he has a great shot,” Daly told USA Today. “Tiger can win until he’s 60, as good as he is. He looks like he’s 100 percent full-go.”

Know when you’re really on a roll? Your ex takes to social media to exhort you to great things. Lindsey Vonn tweeted “Let’s go T!!!”

TV ratings confirm the phenomenon. The Valspar tournament drew NBC’s biggest audience for a non-major since 2015. The Arnold Palmer numbers more than doubled those of the 2017 event.

Now it is time to tap the brakes. It is encouraging to see Woods back on the course, apparently healthy and playing well. But he has a ways to go to match the feats of stellar athletes who competed at a high level into their 40s. Here are six (in alphabetical order) that Tiger can aspire to.


1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The NBA’s career leader in points scored, Abdul-Jabbar, then 40, averaged 14.6 points for the Lakers during the 1987-88 season and 14.1 in the postseason as L.A. won its second consecutive NBA title.

2. George Blanda. The Raiders’ place-kicker and backup quarterback in 1970, Blanda won or tied five games in miraculous fashion. The 43-year-old became a pop culture sensation and was voted the AFC’s Player of the Year.

3. Gordie Howe. At 51, most men use ice to chill their Metamucil. Howe used it as an athletic medium, scoring 15 goals in 80 games during the 1979-80 season for the Hartford Whalers.

4. Stan Musial. The St. Louis Cardinals great hit .330 as a 41-year-old in 1962, making the All-Star team and finishing 10th in the MVP balloting.

5. Jack Nicklaus. The Olden Bear woke up the echoes in 1986, shooting a final-round 65 and winning the Masters at 46 years of age.

6. Warren Spahn. The Braves left-hander went 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA as a 42-year-old in 1963. He made the All-Star team and led the majors with 22 complete games.


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By Gary Peterson

The Mercury News