Athletes Speed Cars And Danger
Here was the question under examination: Is the commonly accepted notion that professional athletes are people who drive fast cars at dangerously high speeds a fair stereotype?
Yeah, I suppose you could stereotype it that way, said Rod Pampling, the Bay Hill defending champion referring to athletes in general.
Fair or unfair stereotype, a follow-up questioner wanted to know.
Oh, I think its a fair comment, Pampling added. I think most guys have cars that are relatively a bit quicker than the standard car.
The issue of deadly speed was raised in a golfing context Saturday when PGA TOUR member Arjun Atwal was involved in open road incident that resulted in the death of another driver when that drivers Mercedes, traveling at speeds of more than 100 miles an hour according to witnesses, crashed into a tree.
Atwals BMW ran off the road and he was unharmed. Law enforcement officials are still investigating to determine, among other things, whether or not Atwal and the deceased were engaged in a form of street racing. All of this took place in Windermere, Fla., not more than 20 minutes from Bay Hill.
Thats going to be tough on Arjun to live with for the rest of his life, Pampling said. You dont know what really happened yet, so its hard to say whats going on.
Making it even more difficult for Atwal is the need to remain silent while the authorities sift through the details and the wreckage. Sunday night, Atwals agent released a statement expressing Atwals deepest condolences to the family of the dead man.
Meanwhile, a news service in India published comments from Atwals father, Harminder Atwal, saying he had spoken with his son and that his son didnt know the other driver and wasnt engaged in any kind of street race.
He is a trifle nervous but otherwise OK, the story quoted the elder Atwal as saying.
Harminder Atwal said his son was returning home from a golf practice session when he saw, through his rear view mirror, the other vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. He said his son believed the man was chasing him.
As it (the other car) was coming at a very, very high speed, Harminder Atwal said, Arjun apprehended that the car will hit his vehicle and he also speeded up a little bit. But the person driving the other car may have thought that he (Arjun Atwal) wanted to race and speeded up further.
Meanwhile, back at the larger issue, PGA TOUR player Jeff Quinney disagreed with Pampling to this extent: I dont think of professional athletes as being fast drivers, he said. They own nice cars. But that doesnt necessarily mean they drive them fast.
The key word there is necessarily.
The opinion here is that professional athletes are a subset of a larger group comprised of people with large amounts of disposable income. Many of those people have obtained that income by taking risks'either on playing fields or in business arenas.
Driving a fast car at a high rate of speed, for many of those people, can be addictive. Not always. But often.
The opinion here is also that Atwal will be cleared in this matter. The incident took place at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon not more than a mile from his Keenes Pointe home. If he was out looking to race, logic dictates he would have chosen another location.
Atwals father insists Florida law enforcement officials only took a statement from his son and are not looking to charge him with any wrongdoing.
Atwal is not entered in this weeks tournament at Bay Hill.
Its a tough thing to comment on, Pampling said.
But its not hard to imagine that professional athletes everywhere swallowed hard when they heard the news about Atwal.
One of Atwals Keenes Pointe neighbors told me Monday he owns a car similar to Atwals, one capable of reaching top speed quickly.
Im shaken by this, he said. My next car is going to be an SUV. Im serious.
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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.
Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.
Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.
Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA.
New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.
Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.
Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.
Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.
Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.
Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.
Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.
“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”
Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”
“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”
Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)
Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”
Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.
“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"
As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.
Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”
McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks
The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.
McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.”
And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.
“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic
No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.
Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.
With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.
“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”
Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.