News & Tours
11 Late Bloomers In Golf Today
Jimmy Walker isn't the only recent example of professional golfers who have taken their time before hitting their stride
February 09, 2014
Something tells us Jimmy Walker is a fan of the PGA Tour's new wraparound season. After going the first 187 tour starts of his career without winning, Walker won three of the first eight events of the 2013-14 season. He captured the season's opening event, the Frys.com Open, and then added titles at the Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am within the next four months. The victory at Pebble made Walker, 35, just the fourth player since 1990 to win three PGA Tour events this early in a season.
Before he was a major champion and an Internet sensation, Dufner spent nearly a decade bouncing back and forth between the PGA and Web.com Tours. It wasn't until 2009 when he experienced any real success on the highest level and not until 2012, at 35, when he won his first PGA Tour title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He hasn't looked back, winning two more times, including the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Sure, Kuchar was a star at Georgia Tech, winning the 1997 U.S. Amateur and even making some noise at the next year's U.S. Open, before winning early on the PGA Tour. But it wasn't until much later -- and with a completely different golf swing -- that Kuchar found the consistency that has made him one of the best players in the world. Kuchar ended a seven-year drought in 2009 and has won four more times since, including the 2012 Players and the 2013 WGC-Match Play Championship.
Like Kuchar, Stricker experienced some early success on the PGA Tour, but nothing like what golf fans have become accustomed to since he turned 40 in 2007. That year, Stricker won the first ever FedEx Cup Playoff event, the Barclays, starting a stretch of golf that eventually resulted in his ascending to the No. 2 spot in the World Ranking. In 2013, despite not winning and playing in just 13 events as part of a "semi-retirement," Stricker had arguably his best season. He finished seventh on the money list and won the Byron Nelson Award for having the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Always one of the longest hitters in golf since he turned pro in 2003, it took Watson more than seven years to harness that power enough to win on the PGA Tour. That breakthrough win came at the Travelers Championship at 32 and it sparked a stretch that saw Watson win four times within a two-year span, including his victory at the 2012 Masters. Claiming the green jacket took Watson to No. 4 in the World Ranking. He hasn't won since, but he remains one of the game's biggest draws.
Singh was a good player in his 20s, but he became a great player in his 30s, and then a legendary player in his 40s. At 35, his win at the 1998 PGA Championship solidified his status as one of the game's elite players and he followed that up with a Masters victory in 2000. In 2004, at 41, he had one of the best seasons in golf history. Singh won nine times that year, including the PGA Championship, capturing the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award and taking over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking from Tiger Woods. In total, a record 22 of his 34 PGA Tour titles came after he turned 40. Singh became eligible for the Champions Tour in February 2013, but he plans to continue playing a full PGA Tour schedule for as long as possible. He finished runner-up in the opening event of the 2013-14 season.
It took Darren Andrew eight years to become a mainstay on the PGA Tour despite being a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour. Two years later, at age 34, he was a PGA Tour winner, although Bill Murray received most of the attention for the pair's victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (Points' official tour victory came as an individual). Points proved that win wasn't a fluke with another title at the 2013 Shell Houston Open, topping Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel by a shot.
The man most known for taking down Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship didn't start playing golf until he was 19 while working at a driving range in South Korea. He didn't win anywhere as a pro until two wins on the Japan Golf Tour when he was 32, but a win at the 2006 Korea Open changed his life. That victory gained Yang entry into the HSBC Champions at the end of the year. He won that event, also holding off Tiger Woods, and then went to the PGA Tour in 2008 after a year on the European Tour. At 37, he won his first PGA Tour event at the Honda Classic before famously topping Tiger at Hazeltine later that year.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
"The Mechanic" won his first European Tour event at 28, but he didn't really hit his stride until he turned 34. Jimenez finished fourth on the tour's Order of Merit that year and like the wine he so often professes his love for, has only gotten better with age. In fact, 13 of his 20 career wins have come since turning 40, including his most recent Hong Kong Open title, which came less than a month before his 50th birthday.
Technically, Duke got to the winner's circle faster than Jimmy Walker by one tournament, winning in his 187th start at the 2013 Travelers Championship. In reality, though, it took Duke much longer. The Hope, Ark., native never lost hope during a circuitous journey to the PGA Tour in which he had to overcome being diagnosed with scoliosis as a child (he still has a metal rod in his back) and had him spending time on pro tours in Asia, South America and Canada. His win at 44 made him the oldest first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 18 years.
Winning the $1 million Kodak Challenge (a year-long points competition for performance on certain holes) bonus in 2009 helped pay the bills, but Streelman didn't officially win on the PGA Tour until the 2013 Tampa Bay Championship. In his 153rd career start, at age 34, the victory at Innisbrook in March propelled him to a breakout season. Streelman would later pick up his first PGA Tour runner-up at the Players on his way to earning more than $3 million for the year.