Overwhelmed Immelman Back to Golf

By Associated PressApril 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 EDS Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas -- Trevor Immelman offered a visual response when asked how different things are for him as the Masters champion. He held up his ink-stained left hand.
You can see all the Sharpie thats rubbed up onto my hand. That wouldnt normally happen to me, Immelman said Wednesday. Thats purely because Ive had to sign so much today. Youve got to pinch yourself when you realize that youre the Masters champion and thats the reason all this is happening.
Immelman had a whirlwind week after the victory, with his first trip to New York for countless interviews, a congratulatory phone call from runner-up Tiger Woods and a few days at home trying to reflect on what had happened.
It still hasnt quite sunk in yet, Immelman said.
But the green jacket is now hanging at home and Immelman is ready to play again, in the EDS Byron Nelson Championship at the renovated TPC Four Seasons, the sole tournament course for the first time since 1993. Cottonwood Valley also was used from 1994-2007.
The Masters champion, who finished second at the Nelson two years ago, is suddenly one of the big-name draws in a field that has only one player from the top 10 in the world rankings: 10th-ranked Adam Scott.
Immelman never considered bypassing the Nelson, but uncertainty about the renovations and the $6.4 million tournament being sandwiched in a three-week span between the Masters and THE PLAYERS Championship were a factor in others skipping.
Soon after Scott Verplanks emotional victory last year, when deteriorating greens were bumpy and sometimes brown, work began on a $10 million project on the course that included changes on every hole and the relocation of 165 trees. The redesign was completed in time despite record rainfall last summer.
Coming back as defending champion, you really hate to see them change anything. But, its good, Verplank said.
Its fantastic. It really is. Its such a huge improvement, Immelman said. I think as soon as word gets out how good the golf course is, youre going to start attracting a lot of great players to this event again.
As will a later date, which seems more likely after EDS announced a four-year extension of its title sponsorship through 2014 after negations with the PGA TOUR.
Tim and I had a meeting of the minds and understood, EDS chairman and CEO Ron Rittenmeyer said, with PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem sitting to his right. Hes been incredibly supportive of this event and has eliminated reasonably what are our concerns.
While not yet ready to discuss specifics of that extension, Rittenmeyer has publicly expressed his desire for the tournament to be held in May. He did indicate that will happen at least some over the next six years.
Verplank finally won the Nelson on his 21st try last year. He was a fitting champion for the first tournament without its namesake watching from his chair beside the 18th green. Byron Nelson died in September 2006 at the age of 94.
Scotts victory was almost preordained, 2007 tournament chairman Brooks Cullum said this week when formally presenting Verplank with his trophy.
When his final 2-foot putt rolled into the cup last year, Verplank dropped into a squatting position, looked skyward and let his emotions flow. Missing was a personal congratulation from Nelson, but Peggy Nelson was there clutching one of her late husbands famed fedoras when she hugged Verplank.
Its a special deal for me, actually getting to live a dream, Verplank said. Most people dream and dont ever get to realize their dreams. I was lucky enough to get to do that and I actually realized it while it was happening.
Verplanks last victory had been in 2001, and he had only one top-10 finish in his first eight tournaments last season before the Nelson. He finished with 10 top 10s and won $3.1 million, both career bests.
I had not been playing that well coming in here last year and obviously got inspired, said Verplank, who has only one top-10 finish in nine tournaments this season. Its pretty similar to how it was last year at this time. I always look forward to coming to play here.
This is Verplanks 22nd Nelson, the most of anybody in the field. The record is 28 by Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson, neither who has played here since 1999.
Immelman, the 28-year-old South African, will try to do what only one of the last 20 Masters winners has been able to do: win their next tournament after donning the green jacket. That was Woods, in 1997, when he won at the Nelson after his first Masters victory. But there the only one to miss the cut in his next tournament was Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994.
Immelman has been in position to win the Nelson before. He had a three-stroke lead midway through the final round in 2006 before losing to Brett Wetterich by a stroke, a week after losing to Jim Furyk in a playoff.
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.