Simpson Came Up Big in 98 Buick Invitational

By George WhiteFebruary 11, 2003, 5:00 pm
The career of Scott Simpson has been filled with intriguing twists. He was a college teammate of Craig Stadler, with whom he also shared an apartment while they finished their studies at the University of Southern California. He won for the first time in 1980, which was 18 years before he won for the last time.
 
He won a U.S. Open, lost a playoff for another. Not a comedian by any means, he was the partner for several years in the AT&T National Pro Am of funnyman Bill Murray. He lived in Hawaii for several years before moving back to San Diego in 1996, realizing the travel was too much of a handicap. He finished out of the top 125 for the first time in 2000 after he suffered a broken ankle.
 
When he finished out of the top 125 in 2002, he was left without a card this year, but not without his U.S. Open trophy. His Open exploits will live forever, with Simpson edging Tom Watson in 87, falling the Payne Stewart in the playoff in 91, finishing out of the top six only once in the five-year period between 87 and 91.
 
In 1998, though, Simpson reclaimed the old glory one more time when he won the
Buick Invitational in his hometown of San Diego. Unfortunately, El Nino got in the way, reducing it to a 54-hole tournament. But Simpson fired a 64 his final 18, overcoming a giant eight-stroke deficit at the start of the last round and putting this one on the Simpson trophy mantle at home.
 
His caddie, San Diego Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries, caused almost as big a stir as he did. But in the end, what he did in the final 18 holes had everybody talking about Scott Simpson.
 
Simpson began what was to be the round Saturday and finished the final three holes between the raindrops Sunday. When he began the last three, he was tied with Steve Pate, Bob Tway and Kevin Sutherland for the lead at 11-under. He birdied two of the final three holes Sunday, bogeyed the third, and sat back for the next two hours to watch the golf with a score of 12-under-par.
 
Davis Love III made a charge, reaching 12-under, but he bogeyed two of the last four holes and needed an eagle of the par-5 last to tie. His chip attempt came up one roll short of the target. Sutherland failed to birdied the 18th and also came up one stroke short. So did Tiger Woods, making birdie on two of the final three holes but falling one short.
 
Simpson couldnt believe what he was seeing. I was watching and thinking, This is unbelievable. These guys cant make any birdies, he mused.
 
Then along came Skip Kendall, one last gasp from the field, and he did it. Kendall faced a 10-foot putt on 18 to get to 12-under ' and he drained it.
 
So back to 18 the two went for the playoff. The second-shot approaches made it appear that Kendall had a definite advantage. His shot stopped on the green, 25 feet below the hole. Simpsons was in a horrible lie in thick rough.
 
Simpson, however, played a heroic chip, then holed a five-foot putt. Kendall putted up to three feet, but his birdie try caught the lip and spun out, giving Simpson a most unexpected victory.
 
Simpsons career since the victory has not been a bright one. In 1999 he slipped to 164th on the money list. In 2000 he suffered the broken ankle over the New Years holiday. He was told the ankle would heal without surgery, but that was not the case. In August he finally had to get seven screws surgically attached. In 2001 he made half a million dollars, good for 96th on the money list, but in 2002 he dipped again, this time to 195th.
 
Simpson won fans everywhere with his great outlook following his futile visit to the PGA Tour qualifying tournament. He didnt feel slighted in the least, even when he failed in the effort and his only status for 2003 is as a past champion. Simpson understood the rules and was willing to abide by them. But he still has his 1998 Buick Invitational memories to fall back on.

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.