Nancy Goes But Memories Remain
She told us a couple of weeks ago that, for all intents and purposes, she is going to retire after this year. She may still play an occasional event, but she wont feel the need to practice like a professional does. Her appearances will be - as Jack Nicklaus is fond of saying - ceremonial. She is giving in to bad knees and an aching shoulder.
Most of all, though, at the age of 45, she is closing this chapter of her life. She is interested now in being solely a mother to her three daughters, perhaps in a few years being a good grandmother. Forget about seeing her play golf. From now on, you will see her at home in Albany, Ga., just playing mom.
We know her as Nancy Lopez. That, of course, hasnt been her name for many years. She is Nancy Knight. To those her know her, though, she is womens golf. To those she played with on the LPGA Tour, she is an inspiration, the mother confessor, and the epitome of what every woman who plays golf wants to be.
She did it by not letting her head swell beyond the size of her shoulders. She was just a girl ' period. She went to rock concerts with the other girls when she was in her 20s, she learned to cook and clean when she was in her 30s, and now in her 40s, she drives her daughters to softball practice, basketball practice and to see their friends. She longs to be just an average woman in an average role ' that of motherhood.
Is she still the woman who may be the greatest female golfer who ever lived? Yes. But she is much more than that ' shes a person who has been there, done that ' all of it ' and still is just everyday Nancy.
As great a player as she is, said Jan Stephenson, whose career roughly paralleled Nancys in the 70s and 80s, you know that SHE knows she has been a great golfer. But she never, never lets on that shes anything but just another woman out here playing golf. Inwardly, she knows. Outwardly, shes the sweetest person out here.
That is symbolic of the way the women of the LPGA feel about her. After all, they are the people who really know her, see her during the private moments when she is shielded from the public in the locker room. Conceited? Never - though if anyone ever deserved to be, it would be Nancy.
She was just a teen-ager when she learned that all famous people werent like the person she ultimately would become.
When I was 15, I went to the Los Angeles Open, said Lopez in a 1998 interview. There was a PGA player that I loved. A man asked for his autograph, and the player said he didnt have time.
I felt embarrassed for the gentleman who asked for the autograph. I thought to myself that when I turned professional, I would never do that. I always make a point to notice fans. Im not better than they are. What are you going to do without fans?
That trip taught her that to brush off an autograph request is an insult. Some pros had been guilty of it before, some have been guilty of it since, but Lopez? After that incident when she was 15, she decided that she would always have time.
Anytime you have someone whos a superstar whos not pleasant, you admire their golf but it kind of sours the other, said Laura Baugh, another who has known Lopez since both played the tour in the 70s. Nancys so personable and nice and sweet, she has a world of respect from every woman out here.
Lopez remembers when she was a rookie. Maybe the reason she is so nice to her LPGA pals is because she was more-or-less ostracized that year (1978). She was only 20, hoping to meet new friends and see exciting new places. But she won so often ' nine times ' that most of the players had already left when she finished the trophy presentation, the media debriefing and the practice. Even when she didnt win, she was in the last group or two because she was always near the lead. There was no one left to make small talk with, to go out with her to the movies or shopping or to eat dinner.
Lots of players thought I was stuck up, Nancy recalls. But I really wasnt. Its just that I never saw them. Id go from the pressroom and then Id go hit balls, and by the time I finally got to the locker room, I never saw anybody, they were all gone. So for the first two or three years, I never talked to anybody, because I never saw them.
But then, when I wasnt winning so much, I got to sit in the locker room a lot more, really get acquainted with the players. I never had that opportunity before.
The players who have come along in the years since have noticed. To her generation, it was an eye-opener that she really was genuine, not a snob. She was a real buddy. To the next generation, she was someone to learn from, who always had time for a young woman with a problem. To the latest generation, she is an icon, but an icon who is real, a breathing, talking person.
She is, Laura Davies says flatly, the nicest lady on tour.
Barb Mucha seconds that. Everybody knows Nancy, she says. Shes as nice a person as she seems to be on TV. She takes time out for people, gives a little something extra to spectators. She has had to earn everything shes gotten, and I know shes very appreciative, very thankful, just to be part of the tour.
Brandie Burton speaks for the younger players. As a rookie on tour, Burton said, she saw me becoming impatient with myself. She took me aside and helped me out. Now, Ill introduce myself to new players. I think thats what Nancy did with me.
Lopez is thrilled with the reactions. She has spent the past 25 years trying to be that person. That she has succeeded in such a wonderful manner is extremely pleasing.
Throughout my life, thats what Ive always tried to do - to put myself on the same level with everybody else, she says. Ive wanted everyone else to feel the same way about me.
Its hard for me sometimes when people walk up to me and react the way they do. Im like ' Hey, Im just Nancy. Im honored, but I dont want to be singled out.
Joanne Carner knows. She is a bit like Nancy herself, the same today as she was 10 years ago, which was the same as she was 20 years ago.
Nancy never changes, Carner said. Shes the same today as she was the first day she came out here.
Nancy Lopez? Nancy Knight? Theyre the same person. One is an idol. The other ' just a mom who happens to be famous.
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.