When it comes to sports, athletes’ probability of success declines with age, which is why the idea of winning anything on the PGA Tour after you’ve passed the half-century mark seems highly improbable.
History certainly doesn’t favor the golfer looking to defy the odds. Only eight golfers have ever won a PGA Tour event after their 50th birthday. The most recent being Phil Mickelson at the 2021 PGA Championship. “Lefty” shocked the golf world at Torre Pines, winning by two strokes against Brooks Koepka at the age of 50. The odds of him winning were definitely stacked up against him.
One bettor put $1,000 on Phil Mickelson to win the PGA Championship.
The Payout = $301,000 ?pic.twitter.com/z9xoQDD4G0
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) May 23, 2021
Experience might sharpen the mental aspect of the game; Tom Brady once likened aging to acquiring all of the answers to the test. But the body that ultimately allows you to execute those answers inevitably begins to wither over time. Add in the inevitable wear and tear accumulated by athletes, and you eventually reach a point where your smarts are irrelevant as your body just isn’t capable of carrying out the necessary functions in a proper and timely manner.
As the adage goes, Father Time remains undefeated, but the continued advancement and emphasis on nutrition and fitness have helped several notable athletes put up an honest fight long enough to extend their careers.
When the 2021 NFL season kicks off in September, Tom Brady will be 44 years old and entering his 22nd season as a reigning Super Bowl MVP thanks to his famous TB12 method that prioritizes pliability in the muscles. LeBron James, who reportedly spends north of seven figures to take care of his body, won his fourth championship and Finals MVP trophy at 35 this past October.
Neither Brady nor James have reached age 50, but it’s clear that these two icons have found their respective conditioning recipes that have kept them playing at a high level longer than anyone could’ve expected. This is a trend that has certainly been seen in the world of golf. Tiger Woods brought weight lifting to the golf scene earlier in his career, and Bryson DeChambeau has added some serious yardage to his drives by packing on roughly 20 pounds of muscle last summer.
If athletes are going to continue finding new ways to extend their careers, golf offers plenty of advantages that can help its players realistically pursue that goal better than most sports.
First off, clearly, golf is a non-contact sport. And while it requires a certain level of conditioning to last 18 holes, it doesn’t require the aerobic exertion of other sports either.
A 2013 study calculated that the age of the average golfer on the PGA Tour was around 35 years old. It’s hard to imagine that number has gone down as key factors like diet and exercise have improved. That number is significantly higher than the age of the average player in both the NBA and NFL at just over 26.
Professional golfers are already playing at an age when many athletes across other sports are nearing retirement. With athletes taking care of their bodies like never before, there’s no reason to think that average age can’t continue to climb.
Will that be enough to have pro golfers not only playing into their 50s but also winning at that stage of their career? We won’t truly know until it happens with some semblance of consistency. But if the longevity of LeBron and Brady is any indication, the boundaries of sports science continue to be pushed, so why couldn’t golfers follow suit?
Photo Credit: Google Creative Common Licenses