Hondas Legacy - Malfunction at the Junction

By George WhiteMarch 11, 2004, 5:00 pm
It began life as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, named for the Rotund One who moved to Miami Beach in his later years and frequented the areas golf course when he wasnt pulling on a scotch bottle. That was way back in 1972, and the stories that they tell about the orphan that became the Honda Classic have become boffo stuff indeed.
You may have heard of the Honda then again, you may not. It has perennially been sandwiched uncomfortably between the more glamorous Doral on one side and Arnold Palmers Bay Hill on the other. It has fitfully struggled to find its rightful place on the PGA Tour schedule, and no tournament in history has had more comical results. Now, with the WGC-Accenture Match Play in California causing most of the stars to bypass Doral ' along with the considerable presence of Dubai ' Honda is finally is getting its due after 32 years of hijinks.
The Jackie Gleason was highly successful in the 70s. Its first winner was Tom Weiskopf, followed by Lee Trevino. Jack Nicklaus won twice and finished second three times, Johnny Miller won twice, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite won once. But in 1984 the tournament moved to a beautiful little track on the north side of Fort Lauderdale, the TPC at Eagle Trace, and the hilarity started. Honda was in control now, and almost every year, another side-splitting antic ruled the news.
You see, Eagle Trace was a perfectly good course for most of the year. But it was terrible during March, which was when Honda was played. Set on the edge of the Everglades, the winds howled back and forth across the layout and the greens were cut too close to the water hazards to allow for the frequent gales. The result: the players were continually embarrassed, and the golf course was continually the target of very tough criticism.
Here are a few of the strange follies which are part and parcel of the Hondas legacy:
1986 ' Kenny Knox wins the 86 tournament despite shooting an 80 in the third round. The culprit, of course, was a Saturday windstorm which sent all the scores soaring and hats flying.
1986 ' Winner Mark Calcavecchia provokes a PGA Tour lawsuit against Ping when Calc rips a Ping 8-iron out of the rough and it has enough spin to back up a considerable distance. The box groove suit is settled in the early 90s with the tour enduring a costly settlement.
1990 ' Winner John Huston wears a shoe ' endorsed by him - manufactured by a Tampa-area company, built up more on the side that the other. The shoe is ruled non-conforming and Huston must change footwear. Before Hustons win, however, the Storm of the Century rips through the course on Saturday night, blowing down tents and scoreboards before spreading its havoc throughout the Northeast.
1991 ' In a fit of anger and frustration, Greg Norman lashes out in a verbal tirade against the course, calling it carnival golf. Incidentally, he made a quadruple bogey on the sixth hole, hitting into the water twice on the hole and shooting a 77 Saturday.
Steve Pate was the winner, but only after almost losing his ball on the final hole. Funny, but it was adjacent to the green, Thousands of people were around ' yet no one saw it.
Runner-up Paul Azinger was also incensed by the course. Its not often you finish second and say youre definitely not coming back, he said in vowing not to return to Eagle Trace.
Pates reaction to this course from hell? Maybe I hate myself, but I like playing here.
1992 ' The tournament course goes up the road 10 miles to Weston Hills, but still the funny stuff persists. Brit Sandy Lyle attempts to drive from Doral to Weston, a distance of maybe 30 miles, but inadvertently neglects to take the Sawgrass Expressway turnoff. He winds up clear across Alligator Alley 100 miles away in Naples ' on the western side of the state. Cursing and yelling, he has to backtrack all the way to Honda.
Corey Pavin holes out from the fairway with an 8-iron on the 72nd hole to tie Fred Couples with an eagle, then birdies the 18th in the playoff to win.
1995 ' Three weeks earlier, Mark OMeara had shown up at the Nissan in Los Angeles but had forgotten to enter. Reject! So he hastily penciled in Honda as a substitute. And what do you know ' he won! The wind was ' once again ' a major factor. Wednesdays hurricane-force gales destroyed the commissioners skybox. OMeara, playing Sunday in the face of biting gales, held off Nick Faldo for his first win in three years.
1996 ' The Honda played Can You Find theTournament? It was supposed to move to a new home on a Mark McCumber-designed course, but 60 inches of rain during the previous summer meant that the new course still wasnt finished in time for the tournament. Tournament organizers checked in with Weston Hills about staying one more year, but a couple of BAR MITZVAHS, for goodness sakes, were scheduled at Weston and the fathers refused to change the dates. So reluctantly Honda returned for one year to good old Eagle Trace. Norman did indeed return, and he and Nick Price pulled up for their opening rounds on a firetruck, of all things.
In addition to the yuks it has provoked down through the years about the fierce winds, Honda became known for the youngsters who have competed in recent years. Sixteen-year-old Chris Couch played in the 90s, and later 16-year-old Ty Tryon caused a ruckus in 2001 when he opened with a 67 and closed with a 68.

The tournament moved to Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens last year, and now its time to start a new reputation. But - uh-oh - it was so difficult that players had a diffiult time completing their rounds Wednesday. The hilarity continues at this event, known as the wackiest on the PGA Tour schedule.
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Whan details LPGA changes for 2018 and beyond

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 8:56 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Race to the CME Globe’s season-long series and its big-bang finish at the CME Group Tour Championship are secured for another six years.

Tour commissioner Mike Whan announced a contract extension with CME Group through 2023 in his annual state-of-the-tour address Thursday at the Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

Whan also outlined changes to next year’s tournament schedule and detailed specifics of the revamp of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, with a new Q-School Series devised as the final stage beginning next year.

Highlights from Whan’s address:

Extending the CME Race . . .

The Race to the CME Globe, a season-long competition for a $1 million jackpot, will be played at least six more years, with Whan announcing a contract extension through 2023.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Whan said.

The LPGA is also close to finalizing details that will keep the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

2018 schedule will include two new West Coast events . . .

The LPGA is likely going to lose three events next year, but it will gain three new ones, leaving the tour with 34 events, including the UL International Crown. That’s the same number of events being played this year. Total prize money is expected to reach $69 million, up from the record $65 million played for this season.

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The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada is off next year’s schedule, and the Lorena Ochoa Match Play also is not expected to return. The McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open is not returning, but only because it is sliding off the schedule to move up early on the 2019 schedule.

Whan said two new West Coast events are being added, and they will be positioned on the calendar next to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, to give players more reasons to stay out west.

Whan said there’s also a new international event being added to the schedule, but details of the new events won’t be released until the full schedule is released sometime after Thanksgiving.

“I hope you’ll agree that stability and predictability haven’t always been the calling card of the LPGA, but it has been the last few years,” Whan said. “I’m proud to tell you that the revenues of the LPGA in the last five or six years are up almost 90 percent. We have added 20 title sponsors and over 20 official marketing partners in the last five or six years. Don’t know too many sports that could claim that.”

Q-School officially overhauled . . .

Whan said the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will still be played in three stages next year, but the final stage will get a makeover as the Q-School Series.

The LPGA will continue to host first and second stages, but instead of a five-round final stage, there will be an eight-round finals series, with two four-round tournaments scheduled in back-to-back weeks in the same city, with cumulative scores used over eight rounds. The new Q-Series site will be announced early next year.

A field of 108 will make the Q-Series finals, with 40 to 50 LPGA tour cards up for grabs.

The Q-Series field will be filled by players finishing 101st to 150th on the LPGA money list, players finishing 31st to 50th on the Symetra Tour money list, with up to 10 players from among the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who don’t have LPGA membership. Also, the field will include the top five in the Golfweek Sagarin College Rankings. The rest of the field will be filled by players advancing through Q-School’s second stage, which could be anywhere from 23 to 33 players, depending how many from the world rankings and college rankings choose to go to the Q-Series.

Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

The awards and winners:

William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”

Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.