Texas Open First Win for Crenshaw
Crenshaw didnt play his senior season at Texas. He turned professional in the fall of 73, played in seven tournaments and made the cut in all of them, then went to the PGA Tour qualifying tournament. He was medallist there by 12 shots, the top player in a field that included Gary McCord, Larry Nelson and Gil Morgan. The first tournament he played in after securing his tour card 30 years ago was, ironically, the Texas Open in San Antonio.
Here, from his book A Feel for the Game, Crenshaw describes what happened:
I was playing well and got wrapped up in trying to beat really established pros like Orville Moody, George Archer and Mike Hill down the stretch, he said. I played the last round with Orville, and I remember when we came up to the last hole, I had a two-shot lead.
Now, Orville was one of the straightest drivers I had ever seen. There was water on both sides of the fairway, and he took his driver, even though a lot of people were playing conservatively that week, and whipped it down the fairway between the lakes. He put pressure on me right there. But somehow I had the presence of mind to take out a 3-iron and I just hit it down the fairway, hit a good second shot, and a 9-iron into the green and ' just like that ' that was it. I shot 65-72-66-67 to beat Orville by two.
Crenshaw never quite lived up to all those collegiate press clippings after that week at the Texas Open. Oh, he won 19 tournaments in his regular-tour career that lasted almost three decades. He won a couple of Masters. He played on five Ryder Cups and was the captain of a Ryder Cup team. But as a teenager and in college, he appeared to be a clone of Jack Nicklaus. What eventually occurred over his 30-year career was something a little different.
Following the great beginning and the early win at San Antonio, Crenshaw would not win again until 1976. He began to fulfill lofty expectations when he won three times in 76 and finished second to Nicklaus, but he would never finish that high again. In only one other year (1979) did he win more than one tournament.
Injuries and illnesses have affected Crenshaws career. He had a thyroid problem and finished 149th on the money list in 1985. And in 1997 he was diagnosed with a foot problem and had surgery. He was the Ryder Cup captain in 1999, so that year and 1998 were basically devoted to his duties. He didnt finish in the top 100 of the money list since 1995 ' when he won the Masters, his last triumph.
If Crenshaw didnt reach the pinnacle expected of him, it might be because of his willingness to listen to everyone. His old friend Kite said as much back in 1983.
I think its hard for Ben to say, No thanks, I dont need your help. He isnt that way, said Kite.
If it was anyone but Ben, Id have been suspicious that not everybody really wanted to be helpful. A little of that goes on, you know. With Ben, they mean well. Even so, the result is still the same if the advice messes you up.
Regardless of whether Crenshaws career has measured up to others expectations, it certainly has measured up to his. He wishes he could have won even more ' what golfer, including Tiger Woods, doesnt? But he is certainly satisfied with what has transpired in his professional life since that Texas Open victory 30 years ago.
I think more than satisfied, said Crenshaw.
When you look at it, Ive been a lot more fortunate than most. Ive had some great experiences. Certainly, the two major victories ' the Masters ' that meant so much to me in so many different ways (were great).
The first victory was more so to prove to myself that I could do it, but the second one was for someone who had meant my whole life in the game (teacher Harvey Penick) ' to have that happen at that time was incredible to me.
And then the Ryder Cup was to follow a great captains legacy (Kite) of players who achieved some wonderful things in this game. And then to watch a team go out and give forth an effort like Ive never seen at a place that I dearly loved (Brookline) was quite special.
Those three things (are special.) And also, to have a chance to win on a lot of other occasions and not achieving it, but to win many events. Ive been luckier than most. Im very satisfied.
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early
The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...
Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.
McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.
Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.
“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.
And that was an offseason event.
“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.
As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.
So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”
Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.
His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.
It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.
There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.
There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.
While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.
There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.
Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.
He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.
Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.
CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):
Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)
Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.
Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.
* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.
* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.
* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.
* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.
* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.
* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.
* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.
* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.
* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.
* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.
* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.
* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.
* This is his first start of 2018.
* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.
(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)