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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 197
W ITH so much attention lavished on golf’s superstars these days, it’s easy to forget that a player’s time at the top can be precious, and all too often fleeting. Tiger Woods still receives more than his fair share of headlines and magazine copy, but it wasn’t that long ago that the debate was about when, not if, he’d break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. You never quite know when a player has punched his elite card for the final time and begins the slide out of regular tournament contention. For some it’s a gradual decline, while other players burn brightly for a second before snuffing themselves out just as quickly. As fans, focused on who we think or hope can win each week, we tend to forget those who’ve gifted us countless highlights, as we lavish praise and eyeballs on the next big things. The ultimate case in point? Hunter Mahan. Since when did a man once ranked fourth in the world become an everyday grinder? Less than two years ago he was winning The Barclays, and you’ll find his name on the past seven Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams. He’s also contested every major since 2007. But both of those streaks are almost certainly about to end, with the American now ranked 143rd, having missed the cut at eight of his 14 events this season including at the Memorial Tournament, where an 8-over 80 opening round led to him missing the cut by 11 shots. Mahan hasn’t cracked the top 50 at a tournament since the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, but what’s interesting is that he remains one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, ranked 17th in strokes gained: putting. His iron play, however, is another story, with the 34-year-old ranked 186th for strokes gained: approach-the-green. It’s been a swift and sad decline for a man who’s simply lost the game that took him within a few good weeks of the top. And what of Luke Donald? It’s almost five years to the day that he won the BMW Championship and grabbed the world No.1 ranking. That year he collected four victories and another 16 top 10s from his 27 starts. To say those kinds of statistics are unsustainable is an understatement, but five years on he finds himself ranked 77th and, save for a tie for a second at the RBC Heritage, is spending most of his weeks battling for scraps between around 20th and 60th position at whichever tournament he happens to be contesting. Perhaps even more perplexing is the disappearance of Keegan Bradley. SINCE WHEN DID A MAN ONCE RANKED FOURTH IN THE WORLD BECOME AN EVERYDAY GRINDER?
GA Express 196
GA Express 198