Hall-of-Fame Performances

By George WhiteDecember 18, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Stories of the Year Editor's Note: TheGolfChannel.com is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is story No. 3 from this past season.
 
It was only a year ago that most of the talk coming out of womens golf concerned the promising crop of under-20s players ' Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie. Those who had dominated the headlines two or three years ago and had already achieved lofty Hall of Fame status ' Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster ' were overlooked.
 
Karrie Webb
Karrie Webb won five times this year on LPGA Tour.
Webb and Pak ' and to a lesser degree Inkster ' had come upon difficult times. Consistent winners before, they had suddenly lost their touch, trying futilely to regain their lost magic.
 
Lo and behold, look what happened! Creamer, Pressel, Gulbis and Wie all had decent years - but Webb, Pak and Inkster had excellent years. The young ones continued to learn how to win without actually winning. The Hall of Famers DID win. Annika Sorenstam, of course, was successful for the 12th straight year. But the other three, who had troubles breaking through recently, all were winners, and Webb and Pak even were able to do it in major championships.
 
It started with Webb, who clicked in the first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She hadnt done much in her first three tournaments, and she faded in the third round of the Kraft Nabisco with a 76. But in the final round, it all came flooding back.
 
Wie and Lorena Ochoa led most of the day, but on the 72nd hole, Webb caused a sudden uproar by holing out from the fairway, 116 yards away, for an eagle. After shooting 65 for the round, she birdied the same hole in a playoff to beat Ochoa.
 
Webb was back. She would finish in the top-10 12 more times with four more wins and take home over $2 million in earnings. She almost won another major, losing a playoff at the McDonalds LPGA Championship to Pak. She says that she had to go through a serious mind change to right the ship.
 
It's hard for me to say that I took things for granted, but I think I did, said the 31-year-old Australian. But at the time I didn't think I was really taking it for granted. I knew that I didn't really, really enjoy winning and what comes with that.
 
I don't know if it was because I was uncomfortable with sitting in front of you guys (media) all the time and being asked questions, if that led to the reason why I didn't feel that comfortable. That's why I was probably trying so hard - I wanted to feel this again and enjoy it and really appreciate it.
 
Webb has been blessed with a natural swing since childhood. The swing itself wasnt the problem.
 
My putting really in the last 18 months has not been what it was when I was playing my best golf, she said. With good putting there is a lot of momentum there. Even if you hit a poor shot, you can get it up and down. Or even if you don't quite hit the shot you're wanting, you have a 20-footer, and you make the 20-footer.
 
Like Webb, there was nothing to indicate that Pak was going to rebound, not in the first half of the season. But then came the playoff win over Webb in the McDonalds LPGA Championship. And she followed that with a third at the U.S. Open
 
Pak has already qualified for the Hall of Fame with enough victories but must wait for induction until she puts in 10 years next season. But the South Korean native carried the banner alone for her countrymen and women early in her career, and it was admittedly just a little too much.
 
'I felt burned out in my game, she admitted. I just didnt really enjoy it.
 
I said, I don't know why I keep going to the golf course, it's all stressful, I don't even have fun out there. And that makes me a lot upset on the golf course.

Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak won a major championship for the first time since 2002.
Injuries to her neck, shoulder, lower back and finger further complicated the situation, reducing her participation to just 12 tournaments in 2005. But when she regained her health this year, she began playing superbly again.
 
I just I'm a very lucky person, Pak said. The way I am loving this, so much love with my game and I'm still playing golf, I'm very lucky. I really am (as) happy (a) person as I ever (have) been and (am) having fun on the golf course.'
 
Pak actually was thinking about winning a major as Webb was busy winning the Kraft Nabisco. The two embraced afterwards, with Pak promising to win the next one. And that she did, winning the McDonalds ' the next major.
 
I saw Karrie won (the) first major for the year, recalled Se Ri, and then I just, it seems like I'm winning. I feel so great to see her winning again and it's great to see her game is back. And then after that, you know what? My game's going to be back. I knew that sooner or later it's going to be me again.
 
And then, theres Inkster, who has had one of the most durable careers ever. Shes now 46, married with two teen-aged daughters, and still shes skilled enough to net a win and 11 top-10s this year.
 
Inkster says that some 30 years of repetitive mechanics had caused her swing to get slightly out of kilter, despite the fact that over the years she had been skilled enough to win seven majors and 30 victories.
 
Concerned, she took all December off last year to work with her swing coach, Mike McGetrick. When the 2006 season started, the swing was in playing shape again.
 
Believe me, it's still not perfect, said Inkster, but my misses are better. My good shots are better, too. I just feel like now that when I get into the hunt and I get in the lead, I have a good chance of winning because I can count on my swing to repeat.
 
And, said Inkster, as long as she has that feeling, she will continue playing.
 
That's all I play for - to win and compete and be in the top, she said. I don't play for the money, I just play because I love the game of golf and I love working on my game. I love beating the younger players. I just like to see where I'm at with my game and just to let them know I'm still around.
 
I might not win every week, and I probably won't win every week, but just to let them know that it's not just the younger players, that I can still play and I still have the desire to play.'
 
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Webb Wins Kraft Nabisco
  • Pak Prevails at McDonald's LPGA
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.