Here’s what you’re thinking: Man, the floodgates are going to open now. Martin Kaymer is back. He won a PGA Championship and held the No. 1 world ranking as a mere lad, made some swing changes and dropped out of sight, and now he wins the Players. This guy is going to run the table. He’s going to zoom back up to No. 1 in short order.
In other words: If you win The Players, that’s a sure-fire path to success.
Not exactly. History doesn’t predict the future, but it does show that winning the Players doesn’t usually lead to significant follow-up wins.
An examination of the past 10 Players champs shows that only three of them went on to win another tournament later that same year. Tiger Woods, last year’s champ, added a Bridgestone Invitational to his five-win season, and he shouldn’t count because he’s in a league of his own and the conventional rules of golf don’t apply.
Players champ Adam Scott snagged a Booz Allen Classic (my former nominee for golf’s fifth major!) in 2004 and Phil Mickelson won a Deutsche Bank Championship in 2007.
No Players champ from the past 10 years also won a major that same year, but a couple contended on the weekend. Sergio Garcia was second in the 2008 PGA. Henrik Stenson had a blistering 2009 when he finished ninth, 13th and sixth in the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA.
Sawgrass winners sometimes do O.K. in non-majors. Matt Kuchar, the 2012 Players champ, had four top-ten finishes the rest of the way — two eighths, a ninth and a tenth. He is Mr. Consistent. K.J. Choi had a second and a third after his 2011 win. Tim Clark had three top tens, Stephen Ames managed only one top ten and Fred Funk had only one top ten.
But if you look at the last ten years of Players champions, lackluster results are more likely than blockbuster years.
What’s this mean for Kaymer? Technically, nothing. Each player’s destiny is up to him. But if you’re planning on wagering in the majors, recent history says he’s not the guy you should go all in on. Of course, wagering on golf is a terrible idea in the first place because it’s so unpredictable, but that’s another story for another day. For now the message is, nice job Mr. Kaymer. Now chill.
Let’s go to the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Vans, If Johnny Manziel withdrew from a pro-am, would anyone care? — Brian Bailey via Twitter
Yes. Apparently, the entire world cares if Johnny Manziel breaks his pencil in a pencil sharpener, washes and waxes his car or gets a haircut. I hope he turns out to be a star quarterback because otherwise this Tim Tebow-like avalanche of hype he’s getting has been a colossal waste of my time.
Van Cynical, My favorite quote of the day: “If you need Tiger to enjoy golf, maybe you don’t actually like golf.” — Brandon Weigel via Twitter
Thanks for retweeting my line, Brandon. There are a lot of folks, including even some golf writers, who remain in denial.
Van Cynical, How does the PGA Tour recover from the clunker of a season it has sold to the public in 2014? Do the sponsors continue? — Ryan Munson via Twitter
Wow, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the coffin today. I missed the part about this season being a clunker, RyMun. Jimmy Walker came out of left field, won three times and became a star. Patrick Reed was also unleashed. There have been some nice upsets, like Russell Henley over Rory McIlroy at Honda, Reed over Bubba Watson at Doral, Matt Every over Adam Scott at Bay Hill and Steven Bowditch over Matt Kuchar in San Antonio. Matt Jones was the thriller of the year, holing a crazy 40-foot putt on the last hole that led to a playoff, then he holed a far crazier 40-yard bunker shot to beat Kuchar in Houston. Bubba held off the start of the Jordan Spieth Era at Augusta, Kuchar won at Harbour Town by holing an unlikely bunker shot on the 72nd hole and Martin Kaymer was going to blow The Players until he sank that mind-bending 28-foot putt for par at the 17th that broke eight feet. But if by clunker you mean that Phil is playing poorly and Tiger is sidelined and you’ve never heard of any of these other golfers, yeah, it’s one big fat old clunker, all right. Nothing to see here. Move along, people.
Vans, I love golf more than anything but I don’t love the PGA Tour entertainment product as much without Tiger. Big difference. — Mark Fedeli via Twitter
I think we can all agree that golf is better with Tiger. Also Lucky Charms is better with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Dos Equis is better with dos señoritas.
Van Sickle, Karma! I love Jim Furyk but I’m glad I don’t play with him every week. I would be broke. And pissed. — Tippet523 via Twitter
Jim has developed some odd pre-shot routine habits that include stepping away from the shot that some find annoying. When he dawdled too long over that last short putt at the Players, the horn sounded and ended play due to an approaching storm. Johnny Miller nailed it, saying, “When you take that long, that’s what you get.” Part of playing the Tour is learning to play with distractions, though, Tippy. Do you have a DVR and a remote? Learn to use them to watch golf. Then you can personally edit Furyk’s shots.
Van Cynical, Jim Furyk is the most neurotic golfer on the PGA Tour. He’s got mental problems that need professional help. — Power Stik via Twitter
Furyk has won $2.8 million in his last five starts.
Van Sickle, it’s important to be able to admit that you made a mistake or that your ruling was just too absurd. — Chef Riccioli via Twitter
You’re right on the money about the Tour’s reversal on the Justin Rose ruling, Chef. I think the PGA Tour would’ve looked better if it came out Saturday night and admitted that it fouled up because it kinda-sorta forgot about that new Rule 18-4. Looking human doesn’t fit the preferred Tour image, however, so they had to act like their stuff doesn’t stink.
Sickle, Is it wrong to root for Dustin Johnson because I want to see Paulina Gretzky at the Ryder Cup? — Michael (Mannix) O’Connor via Twitter
It’s not wrong, Mannix, but Scotland could be frosty in September and require layers of outerwear. If you’re going to root for DJ, the future Mr. Paulina Gretzky, you should be rooting for him to play to at Kapalua where beachwear is the norm.
Van Sickle, Is Michelle Wie just having a good year or do you think she’s finally realizing her massive potential? — Kokomice via Twitter
I said all along that it wasn’t fair to judge her pro results as long as she was attempting to be a student at Stanford at the same time. Now that she’s free to focus on golf, we — and she — get a chance to see how good she can get. Those who wrote her off are going to be surprised. Let’s see if she can pile up a few wins.
Van Cynical, I’m starting to attribute the young guys’ success versus the “big names” to the younger guys playing much more competitive golf. — Matt T via Twitter
You mean it’s not because of Johnny Miller’s helpful on-air golf tips?
Vans, Would Tour players ever play Sawgrass if the course didn’t hold an event? — Brian Bailey via Twitter
Probably not, but tour players wouldn’t play many Tour sites if they didn’t hold events. Tour players like to play classic courses that we like (except we can’t get on), such as Augusta National, Pine Valley, Seminole, Cypress Point and Chicago Golf Club, to name a few. Any course in the TPC chain? Pretty much nahhh.