Katrina Aftermath a Reminder of What Matters

By Associated PressApril 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Zurich ClassicNEW ORLEANS -- Scott Verplank walked past a long row of shiny courtesy cars and stepped into an office to register for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a routine he follows just about every time he plays on the PGA Tour.
 
Once inside, however, it didn't take long to realize the focus this week goes far beyond golf.
 
Behind him on a wall was a bright orange poster with photos showing the destruction from Hurricane Katrina -- a house that had been gutted, water nearly reaching the eaves of another house, a river running through Canal Street, where players stayed in hotels only a year ago. On a table next to him was a photo album showing more damage, including black-and-blue splotches of mold in the home of Sammy Culotta, who handles the computer operations at the tournament.
 
And on the desk in front of him was a green sheet of paper allowing players to donate a portion of their earnings from the $6 million tournament to Katrina charities, or to any other charity the player chooses.
 
Once he signed in, Verplank headed to the practice range at English Turn to hit balls.
 
No, this isn't just another stop on the PGA Tour.
 
'It has a different feel to it,' Verplank said. 'It has a different attitude about it. These people have been devastated by an unbelievable act of nature. And yet they want to get the word out that things are moving forward.'
 
Olin Browne didn't need to look at any pictures.
 
He went fishing Monday with Paul Azinger, and they took a detour through some of the hardest-hit sections of New Orleans. Browne said he saw a boat in the middle of a field, and countless slabs of concrete where houses had been destroyed.
 
Browne is staying in the same downtown hotel he was in last year, which he considers a minor miracle.
 
'They've done a pretty heroic job putting it back together,' he said.
 
Once the tournament starts Thursday morning, the goal is still to shoot the lowest score. That hasn't changed.
 
But there is a feeling among players that it's time to give back to a tournament renowned for treating them like royalty.
 
One reason New Orleans was a favorite stop for so many players was all the charm the Big Easy had to offer, and the hospitality shown by the tournament staff. There were organized fishing trips. There was no shortage of the finest restaurants.

'It's like we shouldn't be here because of all the things that have gone on,' Steve Stricker said. 'We're having a golf tournament with a big purse. We're able to donate money back, which is good. But it almost feels like there are more important things to do. They showed us these pictures at registration, these homes ... and here we are playing golf for all that money.'
 
No one holds that against them.
 
No one seems to mind that the winner goes home with $1.08 million, minus whatever he gives back.
 
Most folks are simply glad to see the PGA Tour in town. The Zurich Classic is the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Katrina, and perhaps another step toward returning the city to some small degree of normalcy.
 
'It's getting us out of the daily thought of what we're living in,' said Anne Barnes, who's in charge of player services this week.
 
If there were any questions how much it meant having a PGA Tour event this year amid such chaos and tragedy, look no further than the volunteers, without whom any tournament could not run.
 
Tournament director John Subers began contacting last year's volunteers soon after the hurricane, not only to see if they were OK, but if they were still around. He wound up with a volunteer force approaching 1,000.
 
'A tremendous outpouring of support,' he said.
 
But then, Subers never had a doubt that golf would return.
 
He was at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston when the Category 5 arrived in New Orleans, and each update was more horrifying. The TPC of Louisiana, where the tournament moved last year, lost nearly 4,000 trees and some holes were submerged by flooding for more than two weeks. It will not open until September at the earliest.
 
That meant a move to English Turn, which hosted the tournament the previous 16 years. Through it all, Subers never had a doubt that the PGA Tour would -- or should -- return.
 
And he's even more convinced now, ticking off a number of reasons why.
 
'This will bring some normalcy back to New Orleans,' he said. 'It's invaluable to what we do in raising money for Fore Kids Foundation, a children's charity that now, more than ever, needs the funds we raise. And it's invaluable for the national exposure.'
 
The message New Orleans wants to send this week is that it is still around and getting better.
 
The 156 players at English Turn are doing their part simply by showing up.
 
'We're here to support this area,' Browne said. 'If you have an opportunity to help out, you should. I think there are guys here who came back for this very reason. We want to see how it is. We want to feel how it is. And we want to help establish a normalcy.'
 
The field includes Phil Mickelson, making his first appearance since winning the Masters, and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. The Zurich Classic has four of the top 10 players from the PGA Tour money list.
 
Why does golf matter this week?
 
'It gives them their escape,' Verplank said. 'They can dream about other things.'
 
Related Links:
  • Golf Chronicles: After Katrina
  • Full Coverage ' Zurich Classic of New Orleans
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

    By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

    Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

    Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

    After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

    With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”