Haas Has a Dilemma Anyone Would Welcome

By George WhiteMay 27, 2004, 4:00 pm
This is a dilemma no one has had to face before. Does Jay Haas jump over to the Champions Tour and start acting his age? Or does he hang on to the regular tour a little while longer, knowing that he is still very competitive with the youngsters, that he stands a good chance at making this years Ryder Cup team and may be just as competitive the next year?
Haas is competing for the first time with the fellas of the Champions Tour this weekend at the Senior PGA Championship. He could have been playing with the older gents from the first of the year ' his 50th birthday was back on Dec. 2. But he is 11-for-11 in making the cut on the PGA Tour, hes won more than a million dollars, and hes finished in the top 10 four times. The money machine wont stop gushing out the dollars.
The clock is ticking toward his 51st birthday, but theres no way he can quit the junior tour yet. Hes 25th on the money list, and hes won more than anybody has on the Champions Tour ' the leader on the Champions has won less than $900,000. He would love to be out there with his compadres, but unfortunately they just wont stop throwing the regular-tour money at him.
Right now, in fact, he has concrete plans to play in just three Champions events ' the tournament this week, the British Seniors and the U.S. Senior Open. The Ryder Cup ' where he is currently 11th on the point standings ' will make all the difference in the world.
If I do make it, then I'll go one way (on the regular tour) maybe in the fall, Haas said this week before a media gathering at the Senior PGA. And if I don't, then I'll maybe play more Champions Tour golf.
So this week I don't think will dictate a lot of that. Hopefully a good week here (at the Senior PGA) will give me another boost - I think any time you play well, no matter what competition, what field, what age group, whatever, it's - for me, it's a boost to my confidence if I can play well.
Haas was just like all the others in their late 40s a couple of years ago. In 2000 he finished 144th in the money rankings. As late as 2002, he was no better than 98th. Just take it easy, play a couple more years out here, then go strong with the senior set when he hit 50.
Except ' it didnt quite work out that way. Suddenly he found he was very competitive again. Last year when he was 49, he shocked himself and everybody else by finishing 15th on the regular-tour money list. That wasnt exactly the way he envisioned the meltdown into the Champions Tour. And to be 25th this year, that isnt exactly the recipe, either.
What happened? Stan Utley was what happened. Utley is a putting and short-game guru, and it took only a couple or three visits with him to totally change Haas outlook. He is fourth on the tour this year in the scrambling category, and that is something that never happened to Haas before.
Personally, hes much closer to the gentlemen on the Champions Tour, both in age and the comfort-level. It's kind of odd, Haas admits. Most of the time on the regular tour, I have to ask my caddie who half the guys are on the range because of how many young players are out there now. But I'm anxious (about his debut with the seniors), I'm nervous about it, I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to it.
Next week he will be right back where the kids are (hes got a couple of sons who are as old as some PGA Tour regulars). This week is just a little diversion from his real job. Come Tuesday hell be at The Memorial. The dilemma is still going on. And yes, its about money ' where to get more of it, just as it was when he started the regular tour back in 1977.
You know, when I started at 23 I guess I was, I felt like if I could play 20 years and be somewhat successful and put some money away - it would be a good career, he says. I would figure something else out to do then (when it came time for him to retire.)
But I would have never dreamed this, to win a million dollars in a year. That (a million dollars) was a career. Early on in the late 70s, I think there were only a couple guys that had gone over a million in career earnings. So that was - I couldn't foresee the fact that we were going to play for so much money.
A million? Did he say a million? Jay Haas has won FOUR MILLION in the last two years alone - and of course 2004 isn't even at the halfway point yet..
That, though, has caused him major mental problems. When will he ever get out there on the Champions Tour? At least, if he needs a little help, he can afford a psychiatrist.
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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.

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.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.