Thorpe Takes Advantage of Second Chance

By George WhiteAugust 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
Jim Thorpe is a lucky man. He is one of the few people who got a second chance to do what he does best - and he made the most of it.
 
This week, when he plays in the Champions Tours final major 'the JELD-WEN Tradition (TGC, Thurs. at 6 & 10:30 p.m. ET) ' Thorpe will be trying to win the tournament for the second time in three years. He stands eighth on the money list this year and has won two times. In his sixth year out on the Champions Tour, he has marched to the winners circle nine times and won $8.5 million.
 
In his 20 years on the regular tour, he won just three times and collected less than $2 million.
 
Ive always felt that I was a much better player than I showed sometimes, especially on the regular tour, he said. I didnt really work at it hard enough or do the things I needed to do to become a better player. I somehow got the idea that since I was on tour, I didnt need to work anymore. I guess I got lazy, took my talent for granted.
 
When he turned 50, though, his mindset changed. Another tour was awaiting him, another stab at making the very most of his talents. Thorpe grabbed at this one, and he still hasnt let go, well into his 55th year.
 
I realized that God had given me a second chance, said Thorpe. Not that the first chance was a washout, but I didnt really take full advantage of it.
 
Now, in this second time around, he has re-dedicated himself to golf. Sometimes a little maturity is needed to make one see the light. Thorpe went to work with a new zeal, and the results have been eye-opening.
 
As opposed to making swing changes, I made other changes, he said. My work ethics changed. I didnt care so much about the racetrack or any of the other things that used to take up so much of my time. Last year when I won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, I think I was the last person to leave the golf course every day.
 
Those would have been heretical words to the old Jim Thorpe ' last person on the range.' If a racetrack was within 100 miles of him, Thorpe would have found it. He goes to the track now for a little relaxation. In younger years, he went to make money.
 
I re-directed my priorities, Thorpe said. Now, me and Dana Quigley go to the track just as a diversion. It keeps me from other temptations ' drugs or whatnot. Ill go and sit for a couple of hours, Ill get tired of it and Ill come back to the hotel. Before, I would keep it up trying to win.
 
Thorpe, though, has steadily worked to shore up all aspects of his game. And though he doesnt rank in the top five in any category, he ranks in the top 20 in almost all. Consistency has become his middle name.
 
I worked at giving my game a chance to show up, versus trying to force it, Thorpe said. I had a back injury earlier this year and I missed four or five weeks of playing. But it was probably one of the best things that happened to me, to get away from the game. When I started practicing again, I started back with the basics.
 
He has had a chance to work on his wedge play, and that has paid huge dividends. When he hurt his back in March, he couldnt take a full swing. But he could swing the shorter clubs. And he discovered what a difference a proficiency with that weapon could make.
 
I think my short game has really improved from 100 yards in, and thats why Im playing better, he said simply.
 
Thorpe traditionally begins to play his best in the second half of the year. I love it when it gets hot and muggy, he says. But this is the second year the JELD-WEN has been played just outside Portland, Ore., and temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s.
 
The golf course we are playing we arent real familiar with, but after playing it last year for the first time, we are getting the hang of it, he said. Theyve made a few changes to it, also, which should make it very playable.
 
The final nine weeks of the season could spell the difference for Thorpe. He could still ease up the ladder to the tip-top echelon if he suddenly got hot. He realizes, though, that every player on tour has solid credentials. The player of the year will have survived some very good competition.

I guess we got a little break this year, mused Thorpe. Tom Watson has been hurt most of the year and hasnt played a lot of golf. Tom is a major force when he plays. Hale Irwin has been a magnificent player all year long. Tom Kite has knocked on the door several times. We have 40-50 solid players out here who can win in any given week.
 
To beat these guys and to even have a chance at Player of the Year, youve really played some great golf.
 
So has Thorpe, of course, although it took a little while for him to achieve it. He believes all his compadres on the Champions Tour are skilled golfers. Of course, he isnt overlooking a guy named Thorpe.
 
Theyre all are champions, they all have won golf tournaments, he said.
 
And - we play great golf.
 
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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.