Is winning The Players a career ender?
As Tiger Woods was making headlines on Sunday after pulling out of the final round of The Players with what’s being called a “bulging disc” in his back, Tim Clark was hoisting a tournament trophy for the first time in his career. The short-in-stature South African withstood a furious push from Robert Allenby to end one of the most undeserved active tournament droughts on tour. It took Clark 206 tournaments and 8 second-place finishes to find the winners circle.
While I hate to be the wet blanket after a feel-good win, the stats paint a scary picture for those privileged enough to have their name engraved on the crystal trophy. Winning The Players is a massive accomplishment, however, past history suggests the tournament winner should enjoy their victory, because chances are pretty good it will be one of the last highlights of their career.
Forget being a springboard for future success; The Players Championship seems to be a tournament where careers go to die. Craig Perks is the name that first comes to mind. After winning the event in 2002 (he eagled 16, birdied 17 and chipped in for par on 18), Perks went on to have an abysmal career that ended with one made cut during the 2006 and 2007 seasons and ended with his retirement in 2007.
But Perks isn’t the only name on the list to have a rough go of things after their big win. Take a look at some of the winner over the past 10 years:
Henrik Stenson, the winner of the 2009 event, hasn’t placed inside the Top 25 this season (unless you count his win at the Tavistock Cup, an event the PGA Tour apparently counts on his player profile). He also missed the cut at the Masters and The Players Championship and has been inconsistent this season.
Sergio Garcia won in 2008 and proceeded to go into hibernation after the victory. While he still managed a T2 at the PGA Championship in 2008, his best finish since then was a fourth-place finish in 2009 at the Wyndham. His putter and his game have been nonexistent ever since.
The same can be said for the games of Stephen Ames and Adam Scott. Both players won The Players and literally fell off the map. Ames’ win in 2009 in the Children’s Miracle Network allowed him to stay out of the bust category; Scott doesn’t get that pass. Like other before him, the Aussie’s game was up and down following the victory.
While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson break the career-ender mold, there is something to be sad for the names the currently adorn the wall of champions at the event. For a tournament that’s supposed to represent the best the tour has to offer, the event has been lacking in consistent star power over the years.
Maybe there’s a reason the big names shy away from winning the event. If past history is an indicator of future success, then winning The Players is more of a career ender than it is a career starter.
Here’s hoping Tim Clark doesn’t pay attention to the stats.