More than seven out of ten major winners have been older than 30

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 17, 2019 13:42

A study on which sports allow players to enjoy more success later in their careers has found that elite level golfers enjoy greater longevity than practically any other sport can offer.

Finishing on a High found that the peak age of a male major winner in golf since the turn of the century is 31, while 71 per cent (57 out of 80) of major champions since 2000 have been older than 30.

Both men’s and women’s golf have seen major winners in their 40s in the last 19 years.

This contrasts with tennis, where, even though the current top three in the world are all in their 30s, there have been just 18 winners of grand slams over the age of 30 in the same period.

The oldest champions in golf are also older than equivalent cycling and Formula 1 champions, with only the average career peak age of heavyweight boxers being older than golfers for major sports.

“Sport is traditionally seen as a young person’s game, but golf is proof that age is no barrier when it comes to success at the highest level,” said a spokesman.

“There has been a trend in recent years that has seen a younger crop of winners come through, lowering the average age since 2017 to 29 thanks to the impact of players such as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, but the return to form of Tiger Woods could stop that pattern from developing further.

“The Open has emerged as the major of choice for the more seasoned pros, with an average winning age of 33 and three winners over the age of 40 in the last 19 years – all three of whom came in succession in 2011, 2012, 2013 with Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson triumphant.

“The most common age for a major winner is 34, with 11 winners of that age since 2000, while 35 and 36 are also popular ages for golfers, proving that they do peak beyond the average age of a professional athlete – which tends to be in the mid-20s for other sports.

“Golfers don’t tend to taste major success until around 24, and they enjoy the best years of their careers from 28 to 36 – what is usually considered the autumn of a sporting career.”

Female golfers on the other hand enjoy a much earlier peak and are at their best at 26, with six teenage major winners and just four over 40 since 2000.

Jacky Forsyth, associate professor of exercise physiology at Staffordshire University, supported the idea that professional athletes can continue to peak for longer now than ever before.

“Most research suggests that performance decline occurs around the age of 50 for both men and women,” she said.

“Already, the age for being at peak is getting older – maybe this is more to do with a societal change than a technological / treatment change.

“There have been medical advancements and we have a better understanding of how the body responds and adapts to training. There is also the idea that, for endurance sports, an older age is preferable since, with ageing, the body responds more to endurance training in terms of muscle tissue and cellular adaptation.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 17, 2019 13:42
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1 Comment

  1. Peter October 18, 14:30

    I believe the rigors of training in other sports, has a lot to do with that ! The athlete with 5 year career, really has a 10 year career if we add-in all the training and specialized work. Success in later years more difficult to come by as the body begins to show wear and tear ! A reason players past their prime usually get traded !

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