Commentary

A major record unlikely to be topped

Updated: July 15, 2012, 8:11 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

A major isn't really a major until a certain 82-year-old Texan sportswriter, with a soft spot for Hogan, Phil, Rory, TCU, wife June, chocolate pudding pie from Carshon's Deli in hometown Fort Worth, Twitter, Camp David, his Rose Bowl ring and a well-crafted one-liner, officially arrives on the premises.

Otherwise, it's just another tournament.

[+] EnlargeDan Jenkins
Zumapress/Icon SMIIn May, Dan Jenkins became the third golf writer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was the first to receive the honor while still alive.

Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins will cover his 44th Open Championship this week and his 212th major in all. That's 49 more majors than Jack Nicklaus played, and the same combined majors total as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson.

In other words, Jenkins has seen stuff -- and written about it in ways that sometimes don't make friends but do make you laugh. And think.

"Ultimate dedication to his craft disguised as nonchalance," said his daughter Sally, a sports columnist for The Washington Post. "He loves to make it look easier than it is."

Well, it's working. Every sentence is a gimme putt for him.

Jenkins is the guy who once said of Woods: "Tiger makes all those other slugs out there today look like they don't even know how to play. ... Only two things can stop Tiger -- injury or a bad marriage."

That was in 2001, seven years before Woods underwent reconstructive ACL surgery on his left knee and eight years before the fire hydrant.

This past April, at the Masters, Jenkins happily observed: "The azaleas at Augusta National are past peak, but the sundresses have bloomed. In golf, everything evens out."

When Sergio Garcia, the Eeyore of golf, took a full shoulder turn with a 7-iron on a tee-side ESPN mic at the recent U.S. Open, Jenkins tweeted: "So the microphone on the ground attacks me, Sergio. I fight it off in self-defense, and now the blame is on ME, Sergio! Why? WHY?"

[+] EnlargeMiguel Angel Jimenez
Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty ImagesDan Jenkins had some choice words to describe the warm-up routine of Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, above, at the 2011 Open Championship.

And at last July's Open Championship, when a certain Spanish player unveiled his stretching routine on the Royal St. George's driving range, Jenkins noted: "Miguel Angel Jimenez's warm-up routine remains so suggestive that spectators are trying to stick dollar bills in his belt."

He won't like to hear it, but Jenkins redefined sports journalism the same way Donald Trump redefined comb-overs. He did it as a teenage newspaperman for the late, great Fort Worth Press and later the Dallas Times-Herald, as a writer for Sports Illustrated, as a best-selling author, and as a Golf Digest columnist. Why a J-school somewhere doesn't bear his name is beyond me.

One day Jenkins quit treating sports as if the archbishop himself had sprinkled it with holy water. It's not that Jenkins doesn't love sports, especially golf; he does. He loves its history, its heroes and its romanticism. His office den is filled with so many museum-quality golf mementos (Hey, isn't that Dan with the president?) that you feel guilty about not paying an admission fee.

"What I like about [golf]?" he said, leaning back in his chair inside his den. "The beauty of it, the challenge of it. I think it's the hardest game to play well consistently. And I've said this a 1,000 times: I think the golfer has more enemies than any other athlete. If you total them up, there's 18 holes, all of them different. There's 14 clubs, all of them different. Wind. Sand. Water. About 150 other guys to beat. And mainly yourself. Yourself is your biggest opponent.

"I didn't make this up. It's just the way it is."

So, yes, Jenkins adores the game almost as much as his former homecoming queen wife or his three kids or that 2011 Rose Bowl ring presented to him by his alma mater, TCU. But more than the game, he loves a compelling golf story. And if that means he doesn't genuflect at all the right places, deal with it.

Jenkins is a Ben Hogan guy. Same hometown. Same sensibilities. He was there when Hogan ruled the golf world in the 1950s.

"It's location, location, location," Jenkins said. "We were both here. And he was great to me. ... Naturally I pulled for him. Ben Hogan was the local story and the story."

Hogan, winner of nine majors, ranks No. 1 on Jenkins' all-time list, followed by Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Bobby Jones.

No Tiger.

"He did make every putt he looked at -- every 12-footer for par -- for 12 years," Jenkins said. "In 2000, when he was at his best, that was spectacular. He had game and putting. That's the only year I ever saw him have game and putting -- except for 2006 and Hoylake. He won that British Open tee to green."

I respectfully disagree with Jenkins' rankings -- Woods belongs. And Jenkins respectfully explained to me why I should be hit, very hard, with a 3-iron.

[+] EnlargeBen Hogan
AP PhotoThe legendary Ben Hogan ranks as the No. 1 golfer of all time on golf writer Dan Jenkins' list. Jenkins covered Hogan in his prime for his local newspaper in Texas.

His rankings measure greatness, but also allow for grace and accessibility. Woods, as well as most of today's players, Jenkins said, lack those graces.

But no one talks more to the media -- before, during and after tournaments, win or lose -- than Woods.

And says less, Jenkins said.

Suggestion to Woods and Jenkins camps: a golf détente. Maybe lunch ... a couple of pieces of Carshon's pie. You've got more in common than you think.

"I think a great athlete transcends eras," Jenkins said. "Just like I think Hogan would be terrific with this equipment, I think Tiger could have played with steel, hickory or anything else. It's like [Lee] Trevino says -- and he says it a lot, too -- you don't know what's in a guy's heart. I've always thought that everybody wants to win, but the great champions are the ones who [expletive] hate to lose."

Just a few months ago, Jenkins became only the third writer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and the first to accept the award while still breathing. Or as Jenkins said in his speech: "I'm particularly pleased to be taken in as a vertical human."

He got a standing O that night, which has to be a first for a sportswriter. If we had any sense of professional pride, we'd give him -- and No. 212 -- another round of applause when he first steps into the Open Championship media center Wednesday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"It will be [213] by the end of the year," Jenkins said, "if I live that long."

"Are you expecting to go someplace else?" I said.

"No, but it's all up to my cardiologist."

"He's not going to break the streak, is he?"

"I hope not," said Jenkins, the signature wry smile in full view. "He likes golf, too."

Not as much as Jenkins.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter