Conventional wisdom says that Generation Next is taking over golf while older players are being squeezed into oblivion. I'm 43 and in my 22nd year on the Tour. I've got a wife and three kids pulling on me to come home, a troublesome back, a course-design firm and my band, Jake Trout and the Flounders. Put me up against the hungry twentysomethings and I'm toast, right?
Maybe not. There's a challenge to making a last stand, and I think we Tour elders are up to it. We may be getting older, but competitive pride and golf's never-ending search for perfection keep us getting better. Wasn't that 38-year-old Fred Couples, bad back and all, winning the Hope last month? Didn't Tom Watson, 48, contend at Phoenix and Pebble Beach?
We graybeards don't have the distance we used to, but there's more than one way to skin a Tiger. Here's my survival kit.
?HONE THE SHORT GAME
After working hard with short-game guru Dave Pelz in 1994,1 won twice early in '95, made the Ryder Cup team and was seventh on the money list. Last year, at 40, Mark O'Meara got up and down from everywhere but the Pacific to hold off Tiger and win at Pebble.
?PUMP SOME IRON
Today's middle-aged Tour player is leaner and stronger than ever. Most oldsters exercise like crazy. Look at Tom Lehman—he just lost 25 pounds—or Greg Norman, the fittest 42-year-old I know.
Your fire needn't wane as you get older and your hair gets thinner. When I did eight tournaments as a commentator for ABC in 1993, it was hard being off the course. So now my focus is back on playing winning golf. Want proof? I recently turned down an offer to do more work for network television.
After some time outside the ropes, I'm back where I want to be.