Irwins 98 Senior Open Reflected His Golf Philosophy

By George WhiteJune 24, 2002, 4:00 pm
Hale Irwin won 20 tournaments on the PGA Tour, and three of them were U.S. Opens. He won them at every stage of his career ' 1974 at Winged Foot, one of the most difficult Opens of all time; 1978 at Inverness when he was 33 years old and just in his prime; and 1990 at Medinah, when he beat Mike Donald in a playoff at the age of 45.
Irwin began playing the Senior Tour in 1995, and by the end of 1997 he had rang up 13 wins ' nine in 97 alone. In 1998 he was still sizzling, reeling off seven victories and finishing second six times. And that was the year that he picked up again on his U.S. Open conquests, adding the U.S. Senior Open to an already glittering array of trophies.
Winning an Open takes a certain mentality, he was saying. Take Donald in 90 at Medinah. Donald never again was quite the same, after Irwin made a 40-foot putt on the 72nd green to tie him, then won it in 19 holes the following day.
I still feel badly for Mike Donald, Irwin said. He had that tournament won ' I say won, because obviously he didnt win ' but he had two really golden opportunities to win and he just couldnt step across the threshold.
Irwin seized the moment when it was there for the taking on the Senior Tour, too. He had a 15-foot putt at Riviera to win the Open over Vicente Fernandez, and he sank it.
I couldnt see any break in the putt, and I wanted to see a break, Irwin said. You just cant believe greens around here have straight putts.
It was Raymond Floyds tournament all the way, just like it had been Donalds tournament at Medinah. Floyd led each of the first three days. Irwin had to come back from an opening-round 77 just to make the cut. He had to sink a chip shot at 18 Saturday from 35 feet to stay within shouting distance ' three shots ' of Floyd.
You can dig your way out of a hole if you have a belief and a plan for going about it, said Irwin.
Irwin must have had a belief and a play on this day in 98. He birdied the 16th hole to finally get around Floyd. Fernandez, playing two groups ahead of Irwin, had fired a 68 to shoot a 285 total. Irwin missed a birdie putt at 17, falling to the ground in disbelief. But when fate afforded him a second chance for birdie on 18, Irwin did indeed step across the threshold. He drilled the putt dead-center, winning his fourth U.S. Open, and his first Senior Open.
He won it just like he had won the three previous Opens. You sort of keep it in sight, you know, he said, half joking, half serious. Dont hit it so far you cant find out where it is, but keep it right there in front of you so you know where to find it and kind of walk down the fairway. You manage yourself.
Irwin is 57 now, but he still won three times last year despite creeping up the age ladder. He did it despite a flourishing course-design business which consumes much of his time, and the joys of being a new grandfather.
But he prevails while others sit and spin their wheels because he had the proper life goals.
I think it just comes down to how you want to live your life, how you want to conduct yourself professionally out there ' not conduct as your personality, but how you want to spend your career, he said in a 1999 interview.
I played in 35 tournaments a year, I am the 30th leading money winner on tour. Are those acceptable standards, finishing in the top 10 three times? No, for the players that are achievers. They want nothing to do with tops. They want the top. They want to win.
Winning is what they talk about. Its not finishing high ' making a cut, getting a check, all that locker room talk. They talk about achieving at the highest standards.
Those are all things, Irwin was saying, that make an athlete a winner. There is a difference in being good, and being at the top. Irwin has tried throughout his career - even though it has not always been possible - to be a winner, just as he did at the 98 Senior Open.
That is what people respond to, he said. If you are comfortable in that zone (of being a winner), then yes, its a comfort zone. And if you are comfortable, you wont play to it. You just will not do it. Your mind will not let you do it.
Irwin still has his three regular Opens and the Senior Open, so apparently his mind his allowed him to succeed in this environment. And he says that he never has had any regrets since he decided to perform in this environment and in this sport.
Not a single one, he says. The greatest thing to me, its been the opportunity to meet the people I have met. I played some great golf courses and had some great events and been very successful and all that stuff, but its the people that, to me, have been fantastic.
Its been an education all into itself. Nothing in school, in a textbook anywhere, could teach you the kind of things that I have been to learn and forget as I have out here.
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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."