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.
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry