Golf past, present and future

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 18, 2005

Nicklaus, Woods, Wie.

Eventually these names may be the most revered names in golf history.

The first bid farewell to the pro tour Friday in St. Andrews, Scotland. The Golden Bear is thought to be the greatest player in golf history, as his resume boasts 20 major championships, including six Master’s, 56 top five major finishes and 73 tour victories.

The second, is quickly making a charge on the bear, as Tiger won his 10th major of the year this weekend and his second major victory this year.

The last, a 15 year old girl named Michelle Wie, just missed the cut last weekend at the John Deere Classic, a men’s tour event, and came tantalizingly close to winning a match play tournament last week, where the winner would be invited to the Master’s.

All this in one week equals to quite a week for pro golf.

Even though I wasn’t alive, or at least conscious, for Nicklaus’ reign at the top of his sport, I know enough history to see what all the fuss is about – to put it as mildly as possible.

Nicklaus’ stats say it all, with the 56 top five finishes being arguably the most impressive as it shows his amazing consistency and gives everyone else in the field the overwhelming sense that if they’re going to contend, the Bear will be right there with them.

Nicklaus concluded his dramatic series of major championship finales Friday as he missed the cut for the final two rounds of the British Open, a championship he won three times, but at a course he loved as much as any other in St. Andrews.

Even though he missed the cut, Nicklaus ended his career with a seemingly perfect 13-foot birdie putt on the famous 18th green.

A truly amazing finish for an all-time great.

Another all-time great reached the halfway point to tying Nicklaus for career major championship wins.

In the kind of story line that makes sports so great, Woods was completely running away from the rest of the British Open field about the time Nicklaus made his final putt.

By the time Friday ended – halftime for a golf event – Woods had the Open in his bag.

Even though he faltered a bit Sunday, Woods would go on to win with a 14-under for the tournament – five shots better than the next opponent.

With the win, Woods joins Nicklaus as the only other golfer to win each major twice, but doing so at a much younger age than Nicklaus first did.

The dominance that Woods portrayed this weekend, solidified his status at being at the top of his sport, for the second time in his career.

After a short break, where critics questioned Woods’ status as a golf legend, Tiger silenced them earlier this year with a win at the Master’s and ran over them with his British Open win.

Not only does the win bring his major total to 10, but it shows that Woods is as dominant as ever and could well be on his way to passing The Bear for major wins.

Overshadowed by a tremendous Open weekend was the week of a junior in high school who nearly qualified for next year’s Masters and beat out many men at the prime of their career in a PGA tour event.

And, oh yeah, that junior in high school is a girl.

Now many point out, maybe one of you readers, which I have found out to at least have a few, that Wie has never made the cut on the men’s PGA tour and has yet to qualify for the Master’s.

At which time I remind that you that neither has any other girl, including possibly the most dominant athlete of the last five years in women’s tour member Annika Sorenstam.

The sheer notion of a 15-year-old girl just missing qualification for the Master’s is astounding and should be recognized at such.

There is no debate that one day Wie will break through the barrier and make a PGA cut and qualify for a major, and will one day contend at the top of the PGA tour for years to come.

My prediction: Wie’s name will one day be just as respected as some other one-worders: Tiger and the Bear