News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Rub of the Green

May 31, 2008

Don’t hold your breath on player challenging Woods’ dominance

TERRE HAUTE — Through the years the world of golf often has had a pair of outstanding players who could precipitate arguments as to who was the better player.

Way back when, we could have compared the abilities of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Although Jones was an amateur, he went on a barnstorming tour with The Haig. Sir Walter usually beat Bobby handily according to most accounts, but in all fairness Jones’ competitive days had passed.

Fast forward to the 1940s and 50s. It was Ben Hogan vs. Sam Snead for the No. 1 in the world golf arena.

Although many gave the nod to Hogan, it was true that Bantam Ben never beat Slamming Sam in head to head competition, but then Sam had a glaring omission on his record. He never won the U.S. Open.

By the mid 1950s, Arnold Palmer had burst upon the scene. With his swashbuckling style and charisma to burn, not to mention an army behind him, he was definitely “ the man”, but another star was waiting in the wings, and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to wait too long before he was going to make his presence felt.

It was, of course, Jack Nicklaus who would come on the scene and challenge Arnie, and Jack was not welcomed. Arnie’s fans resented anyone who would dare to dethrone a man who had been and perhaps still is, golf’s most popular player. Jack had to endure shouts of “Fat Jack,” and applause when he missed a putt. To his credit he took all the abuse that was directed at him, and he was satisfied to let his clubs do the talking.

After he took off some unwanted pounds, let his hair grow and re-invented himself as the Golden Bear, most fans then decided he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

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