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.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.