Rich Beem right at home at site of 2002 triumph

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA ChampionshipCHASKA, Minn. ' An old friend called Hazeltine National member Patrick Hunt last week, saying hed be arriving for the PGA Championship on Friday night and wondering if he could stay at Hunts house.
No problem, Hunt said.
Hed even pick 2002 PGA champion Rich Beem up at the airport.
Hazeltine gave Beem an honorary membership after he won the last time the PGA was here, never thinking it would amount to more than a photo opportunity or two. Little did they know. The affable Beem considers himself a real member, making so many trips back over the last seven years hes got a half-dozen members in his phone book and is angling for his own locker when Hazeltine remodels this fall.
They just really embraced me, Beem said Tuesday. Its been fantastic, and Im very honored to be a member here, and look forward to coming back in years to come.
Its no surprise Beem has fond feelings for Hazeltine. This, after all, is the place where he won his first ' and, so far, only ' major.
A journeyman whod once made a living selling cell phones and car stereos, Beem had won at The International two weeks before coming to Hazeltine in 2002 and knew he was capable of playing well. But winning a major? And holding off Tiger Woods to do it? Well, even he didnt expect that.
Its not like I was building up to that. It was kind of something that, I dont want to say fell in my lap, but if were going to be honest here, it almost did, said Beem, who beat Woods by a stroke. I went out and I won it and I earned it. But to me I wasnt a major champion. I just went out and won another tournament. And all of a sudden, wait a second now; now its something different.
Beem hasnt won since Hazeltine, and his win here is probably part of the reason why. When guys like Padraig Harrington or Phil Mickelson won their first majors, they were already accustomed to the spotlight. Theyd piled up wins in other tournaments, contended in majors, and the question was more when theyd win than if.
For Beem, though, it was all new, and he couldnt help but be overwhelmed by it. He finished outside the top 125 for the third time in five years last year, and has only five top-10 finishes since 2006. Hes made 10 cuts and missed 10 this season, his best finish a tie for sixth in Mexico.
Everything happened so fast and so quickly and so unexpectedly, that how do you prepare for it all? he said. Its really tough, and so I handled some things exceptionally well and I handled some things not so well.
The one thing thats remained constant, though, is Beem himself.
The first time Beem came back here, he brought some buddies with him from El Paso, Texas, and they spent two days playing the Hazeltine members.
They absolutely slaughtered us, he said.
It was so much fun, though, that Beem invited the Minnesotans down to Texas a few months later.
Rich was booking the tee times, Rich was booking the hotel rooms, Hunt said.
He even helped out on a practical joke. He invited the Hazeltine members to his house, and they spent an hour or two taking pictures with his replica Wanamaker Trophy and reliving the 2002 championship. When it came time to head out to dinner, though, Hazeltine member Virgil Schneider discovered that his SUV had disappeared from Beems driveway.
His rented SUV. The one hed left the keys in.
I had already known his keys were in the car, and I had one of my buddies take it across the street and park it in the garage. He lost it, Beem said, laughing. I made him sweat for half an hour and I said, Dude, its across the street, in my buddys garage.
The clubs have played twice since then, and Beem estimates hes played Hazeltine about a dozen times since 2002. And while members have become accustomed to his presence, they develop a greater appreciation for him every time he returns.
Its rare for defending champions to make an appearance at media days ' most do it by teleconference now ' let alone someone who last won back when Woods list of majors was still in the single digits. Not only did Beem come back, he returned anytime Hazeltine asked.
He signed autographs earlier this week for a line of fans that only seemed to stretch to South Dakota. He taped an announcement for Minnesota Wild fans. He threw out the first pitch at a Twins game. Bounced it in the dirt, but thats not the point.
There are members who would say theyre disappointed Tiger didnt win, but we could not have a better champion than Rich Beem, said Hunt, a member of the executive committee in 2002 and again this year. Rich has never turned us down with a single request weve made.
No wonder fans followed him like he was the Pied Piper during Tuesdays practice round.
Woods is obviously the popular choice to win this weekend, but Beem might be the peoples choice.
For him to come back and prove it here would be such a special thing, Hunt said. But regardless, the same Rich that got to my house at 5 a.m. Saturday will be the same one that leaves on Sunday.
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    McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

    By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

    The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

    McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

    McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

    ''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

    Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

    ''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

    McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

    ''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

    ''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

    The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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    Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

    By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

    If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

    Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

    If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

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    I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

    A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

    And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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    Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

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    Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

    “I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

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