Strange Pak Inducted into Hall of Fame

By Associated PressNovember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Curtis Strange and Hubert Green could be crusty and surly on the golf course, a fighting spirit that carried Strange to consecutive U.S. Open titles and Green to major victories in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
 
They turned somber and reflective Monday night when they were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
'I have been extremely lucky and blessed to play golf,' Strange said. 'I love this game, and sometimes I hate it. It frustrates us and excites us at the same time. I've gone to bed many nights questioning my ability and you wake up the next morning and can't wait to play.'
 
Joining them in the Class of 2007 was Se Ri Pak, at 30 the youngest player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
 
Beyond her five majors and 24 career victories on the LPGA Tour, Pak became a pioneer for young players from South Korea. She was one of only three South Koreans on the LPGA during her sensational rookie season, when she won two majors, and the tour now has 45 players from her country.
 
Kel Nagle of Australia, whose 76 victories around the world included the 1960 British Open at St. Andrews, was elected through the Veteran's Category. Nagle could not travel to Florida for the induction.
 
Inducted posthumously were golf course architect Charles Blair Macdonald and three-time British Amateur champion Joe Carr, both through the Lifetime Achievement Category. Macdonald helped build the first 18-hole course in America, won the first U.S. Amateur in 1895 and was the driving force in getting five golf clubs to form what became the U.S. Golf Association.
 
The induction at the World Golf Village brought membership in the Hall of Fame to 120.
 
Strange was only player who received at least 65 percent of the vote on the PGA TOUR ballot. He won 17 times on the PGA TOUR, but was most famous for becoming the first player since Ben Hogan in 1950-51 to win the U.S. Open in consecutive years. First came a playoff victory over Nick Faldo at The Country Club in 1988, then a one-shot victory at Oak Hill in 1989.
 
He was the dominant American for a decade, winning the PGA TOUR money title three times and becoming the first to surpass $1 million for a year in 1988. This year, 99 players topped the $1 million mark.
 
Strange was presented by his twin brother, Allan, who also played on tour in the early '90s. Their father, Tom, the head pro at Bow Creek Country Club in Virginia Beach, Va., pulled them aside when they were 12 and told them, 'Whatever you do in life, strive to be the greatest you can be.'
 
Their father died of cancer two years later.
 
Strange won an NCAA title at Wake Forest, hitting a 1-iron to 12 feet for eagle on the final hole, then went on to dominance, particularly in the U.S. Open. He is the only player to finish under par in three straight U.S. Opens.
 
He prepared for that as a teenager, playing four balls late in the afternoon at Bow Creek -- one belonging to Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson, one representing Sam Snead, one for Jack Nicklaus and the other his.
 
'This is my finest day and my greatest honor,' Strange said. 'I understand that you will never confuse my record with Hogan, Nelson, Snead or Nicklaus. I understand I won't be in the starting rotation on this team, but I will be on the team. That's enough for me. And trust me, it's a privilege to be on the team.'
 
Green was recruited to Florida State by the basketball coach, Hugh Durham, and was PGA TOUR rookie of the year in 1971. He wound up with 19 career victories and two majors, one that showed determination, stubbornness and supreme concentration. Playing the final round of the 1977 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, he was told someone had threatened to kill him on the back nine.
 
Given the choice to clear the course of fans or return the following day, Green played on and captured his first major. He also won the 1985 PGA Championship at Cherry Hills over Lee Trevino.
 
Green, who overcame oral cancer four years ago, had 73 guests come to the induction, including his three sons. They played golf together Sunday for the first time.
 
Pak hardly spoke any English when she joined the tour, and learned the language mostly through her press conferences. She was nervous before a crowd of some 3,000 on a chilly night, but got through it with laughter, her larger-than-life smile and heartfelt emotion.
 
'My parents said when you make dreams, make them big,' she said. 'This night was always the one I dreamed about.'
 
Pak had as much influence as anyone since Nancy Lopez, who presented her. She was relatively unknown as a rookie in 1998 until she won the LPGA Championship, then the U.S. Women's Open in a 20-hole playoff, and later shot 61 to set what then was the scoring record on the LPGA Tour. More than that, she inspired a nation of South Korean golfers to bring their games to America.
 
'Now everybody calls me the leader of Korean ladies golfers,' she said earlier Monday. 'Leader is always hard, really difficult. There's a lot of pressure. All I can do is just make them go the right way, to show them what's the best way, how to believe in themselves, how to make them as players. Things like that, it makes me really more stronger.'
Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''