Strange Pak Inducted into Hall of Fame
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.'
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''