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Best of all time

January 6, 2014
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mmathison@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

I got home at oh-dark-thirty Saturday night/Sunday morning, sat down and turned on the tube for a few minutes.

Although I have seen the movie before, I got into "Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius" in a different manner than before.

Being a golf pro for some 17 years before getting back into the journalism business, I had read numerous items about Jones and heard some stories.

This time, though, I watched the final 45 minutes with the thought that he was the best golfer to ever live.

Ever.

I am a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller (yep, I'm old). I now a fan of Phil Mickelson and a bigger fan of Bubba Watson.

As much as Tiger has done, no one will bring golf to more people than Arnie did.

Arnie's Army was the first throng to back a golfer.

He had a ton of fans.

Jack, of course, owns the record for most major wins with 18.

Weiskopf and Miller just happened along the same time as Jack.

I had met Miller one day in the pro shop at Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course as one of his sons was playing in the local city championship.

Polite man and really smart.

I had heard a story of him, related such story and asked him if it were true.

The story went that Miller was on the 6th hole at Pebble Beach, a course he had played hundreds of times. The second shot on the par 5 is uphill and you cannot see the surface of the green.

Miller was a 5-iron away with a colleague. He hit a shot that he didn't like, put another ball down and hit another shot he didn't like.

All, the while, he told the person standing nearby approximately where the balls were on the green.

He then put a third ball down, struck it and almost immediately said it was perfect and was going in the hole.

When the reached the green, the first two balls were close to where Miller said they were. The third, the one he claimed was in the hole, was at tap-in distance.

Miller played the game by feel and his feel was so good he knew exactly when a shot was struck perfectly (Jones had stated early in his life that in a good round of golf, there were no more than five shots struck perfectly).

Once I was done recounting the story I had heard, Miller just smiled.

I am a fan listening to Miller on TV.

I hear people talk all the time that if Tiger wins five more majors that he is the greatest of all time.

Not a chance.

He may have won the most majors, but won't be close to Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr.

Jones is the only golfer to have won all four majors in the same year. He did it in 1930 when the four majors were the Open and amateur championships in both the United States and United Kingdom.

He did so at age 28.

He then retired.

Jones played in 31 majors.

He won 13.

He finished in the top 10 an astounding 27 times.

I do not care what era, that is the best of all time.

In 1926, Jones was the first person to win the U.S. and British Open Championships in the same year and was the second win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in the same year (1930). He is also the last person to complete the U.S. double.

In 1927, Jones beat Chick Evans 8&7 for the U.S. Amateur title. Evans is the other person to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in the same year (1916).

It wasn't always easy for Jones.

In his first visit to the Old Course at St. Anders in 1921 for the Open Championship, he withdrew after not finishing the 11th hole.

He won the same championship on the same course six years later.

Jones founded Augusta National Golf Club. He purchased the land in 1931 and the golf course opened two years later.

Story goes he founded the private club because he wanted peace and quiet when going to a golf course. He was one of the most popular athletes in the world.

Jones founded the Masters (born the Augusta National Invitational) and it was first played in 1934.

All pretty good for a part-time player.

Jones played in 11 U.S. Opens and his worst finish was T11 in 1926.

He won three of the four Open Championships he played in and one of the three British Amateurs.

Finally, he won five U.S. Amateur titles (1924, '25, '27, '28 and '30) and finished runner-up in 1926.

Tiger has played in 70 majors with 14 wins and 38 top 10s. Yes, he has the Tiger slam and was as dominant as any player, but he does not have the record like Nicklaus in the majors.

Jack, in the 1970s, played in all 40 majors, had eight wins and 35 top 10s.

From the 1970 Open Championship (victory) to the 1978 Open Championship (victory), which is 33 majors, Jack finished outside the top twice - T13 at the 1972 PGA and T11 at the 1976 U.S. Open.

Talk about playing really, really good golf.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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