Memories of Payne Live On Forever
I am thinking of that day 10 years ago because today is the five-year anniversary of Payne Stewarts untimely death. Everyone remembers the circumstances - the private jet which underwent a mysterious decompression early in the flight, the quick demise of all the passengers, the final crash into a corn field in South Dakota.
But today, five years before the tragedy, he was totally relaxed. Payne was just Payne. He could be a little prickly when he was in a certain mood, but in all the years that I had known him as the golf writer from the Orlando newspaper, he and I had developed a personal relationship. I cant honestly say it was always a warm and cozy relationship, but over-all it was a very friendly one.
On this March day, I met the nanny of his two children, a mature woman from England. The Stewarts had found her though an agency. They had some young girls in here who thought it would be a glamour job, said Payne. They had no idea how much work it is.
Daughter Chelsea and wife Tracey were away for the afternoon, but five-year-old son Aaron danced excitedly around Payne. Payne grabbed a bat and a softball and went out to the street to throw underhanded lobs to him.
Aaron gripped the bat cross-handed, but he could hit. He popped a few over Paynes head, pretty impressive for a little lad. Payne explained that he also gripped a golf club cross-handed. He went with me the other day when I was hitting a few balls, and his godfather said, Aaron, youre gripping it the wrong way.
He said, When I grip it the other way, I make big holes in the ground. At this age, I just let him grip it and swing away. I believe hes just got to have fun.
We went inside and took a tour of Paynes personal closet, where he had about 40 pairs of his trademark knickers, all neatly hung. They are cooler in the heat, and believe it not, theyre warmer in the cold, Payne said. Actually, theyre very comfortable.
By this time, Aaron had a little rope around his dads ankles. Uh-oh ' hes got me tied up, laughed Payne. I guess hes the sheriff now.
I mentioned the kitchen ' I had read recently where Payne considered himself something of an amateur chef. Oh yes, he said excitedly. I can flat-out burn it. Ill fix you guys something and you tell me if I can cook or not.
He then proceeded to make a couple of ham-and-egg sandwiches, carefully frying the eggs just so, heating up the ham, doing everything with much pomp and circumstance. What he lacked in expertise, he certainly made up for in flourish.
He then gave a little history of the life of Payne. If you couldnt cook in my house when I was growing up, you didnt eat. Im trying to explain that to my kids, but they say, Oh daddy, why should we learn, everybodys doing it for us. Thats a bad attitude, I tell them.
I remembered this day when I first heard the news in 1999 that he was on the plane that was lost in the skies. A month before, I had joined him, Lee Janzen and Scott Hoch for breakfast in the locker room at the NEC Invitational at Akron. He had joked with Hoch, said something in mock sarcasm to Janzen ' as usual, totally full of life.
Suddenly, like someone suddenly snuffing out a match, he was gone. And then, a conversation we had had that day five years earlier came flooding back.
He had talked expansively about his children, talked about young Aaron coming up to him as he lay sleeping at 7 in the morning after flying home from a tournament and arriving at 1:30 that night. He really didnt care how sleepy I was, said Payne. He said, Hey dad, look at this new gun I got. I was just his dad, and he could care less that I only had five hours sleep.
And Chelsea? Payne was planning a special surprise for Chelsea some day. He had developed a special marinating sauce, and the recipe he was saving for that time when Chelsea would be married.
I said, Chelsea, when you get married, Ill give you the recipe. When you are out of the house, you will have it. But not until then.
Chelsea will never get the recipe from her father. Hes gone. But his memories will remain forever. He loved his children, he loved life, and the world is just not the same without him.
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
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.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
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.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.
Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.
Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.
Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA.
New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.
Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.
Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.
Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.
Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.
Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.