Thorpes Year to Remember

By George WhiteJuly 8, 2002, 4:00 pm
Hes in a different career now ' his Senior Tour career. You see his name every week ' Jim Thorpe finishes third, Jim Thorpe finishes second, Jim Thorpe wins. Jim Thorpe, as you might have guessed, is very successful among the elder set.
 
He wasnt as successful in his career PGA Tour. He had to go through Monday qualifiers until the all-exempt tour came into effect in 1983, and he was a terrible qualifier. On those occasions when he actually got into a tournament, he usually did quite well. But it was an ordeal just battling his way past 100 guys to get into the starting lineup. And it was an ordeal just keeping the money when he did earn it ' many of his checks went straight through to the casinos or race tracks. I dont think I owed the whole check, said Thorpe, but I knew I had the money when I got there.
 
Jim Thorpe has had a dozen or so careers in his 53 years college football player, General Motors plant worker, golf hustler, mini-tour player, black-tour player, finally the PGA Tour, just to name a few. He made the big tour in 1978, even was co-medalist along with John Fought at the qualifying school.
 
In 1985, though, Thorpe was all aces when it came to his career with the PGA Tour. That year he was golden ' he won two tournaments (Milwaukee Open and the Seiko-Tucson Match Play Championship) and lost a third in a playoff (the Western Open).
 
The year had started on a discouraging note for Thorpe. The first part of the season, he had tendonitis in his left wrist. I told my wife if I make $50-60,000, enough to make the top 125, I was gonna pull up for the year, he says.
 
So when the month of August rolled around, Thorpe had almost won his $50,000. He would have to make four or five thousand in the Western Open the first weekend in August, and that would be it for 1985.
 
Thorpe didnt look like he was going to make it after a first-round 75. He went to see a doctor that evening and got a cortisone injection to ease the pain. But that was when his career suddenly took a turn from a one-way ticket home ' to the best year of his PGA Tour career.
 
Thorpe came back from the cortisone shot to blister the course for a 66, easily sufficient to survive the cut. And by the time Sunday morning rolled around, Thorpe had a six-shot lead on everyone except one amateur ' an Oklahoma State collegian named Scott Verplank.
 
It rained throughout the day Sunday ' Verplanks 21st birthday ' and Thorpe never could catch his younger opponent, who was the first amateur in 36 years to win a tournament. On the third playoff hole Verplank finally won. CBS television commentator Steve Melnyk said the pressure on Thorpe was much greater than Verplank.
 
As good a player as Scott is, Melnyk said after the win, nobody really expects an amateur to come out and beat the best players in the world. Plus, theres just so many things going through your mind when you finally get into a position (as Thorpe was) to win your first tour event.
 
Thorpe agreed. Im not trying to take anything away from him because hes a super player, he said, but there was no money on the line for Scott. It was a walk in the park for him.
 
Thorpe did win the first-place money of $90,000, but he was to get a nasty surprise when he went to Cherry Hills the next week for the PGA Championship. He thought the first-place money would qualify him, but he was mistaken. The PGA ruled that he was ineligible since he hadnt actually won the tournament (at the time one of the categories of eligibility was a win in the year prior to the tournament).
 
I understand there are rules, but the PGA of America had an exemption available, and I felt I had earned it as low pro at the Western, said Thorpe. Nonetheless, he was obligated to leave Denver and the PGA, but that just made him more determined for his next success.
 
That came the next month, at Milwaukee. This time, there wouldnt be anymore almosts. This time, Thorpe ended all speculation with a resounding win. The man he beat wasnt an amateur ' it was Jack Nicklaus.
 
Thorpe, with an Ace bandage strapped around his ailing left wrist, shot a 62 in the third round ' which included a 29 on the front nine. That was low enough to catch Nicklaus. Then he kept it up in the final round to defeat Nicklaus ' and everyone else in the field ' and win going away.
 
It was a little telling of Nicklaus the man that Nicklaus sidled up to Thorpe during the final round and gave a little encouragement.
 
I was really feeling the pressure the back nine, said Thorpe. Jack came over to me and said, Try and take it easy, Jim. It will all be over soon.
 
It helped relax me, and when we came up 18, he motioned for me to walk up to the green ahead of him. He wanted me to know that the cheers were all for me. I know he had to be disappointed in not winning, but he was thoughtful enough to think me. Ill never forget that.
 
Then it was on to Tucson the last week in October, and a victory over Jack Renner in the Match Play Championship. Thorpe remembers the struggle of playing through the field one-by-one. He won the Match Play again in 1986, making two of the three regular tour victories head-to-head battles.
 
He admitted it was due partially to his gamesmanship. Example? A 1985 match with Dan Pohl.
 
I had Herman Mitchell (Lee Trevinos longtime caddy) caddying for me, Thorpe said in a recent Golf Digest article. I was 3-up on Dan and giving him some lip. All of a sudden Dan reversed the gamesmanship and broke my concentration.
 
Next thing I knew, were dead even. On the 16th hole we both chipped to about two feet. He gave me the putt. I was about to do the same when Herman said, Jim, dont give him that.
 
So I just stood there. I could tell be Dans body language he was expecting me to tell him to pick it up. But I didnt give it to him, he missed it, and I ended up winning. Herman said, Man, thats your game, talkin and jivin, getting into peoples heads.
 
By the time 1985 was over with, Thorpe had made nearly $400,000 ' $54,000 for Milwaukee and $150,000 in Tucson to go with the 90k he won at the Western. That was good for fourth on the money list. But he also had something even more important ' a new attitude.
 
Hes not a nice guy on the golf course anymore, said his wife, Carol, at the end of 1985. I mean, hes congenial, but hes got the killer instinct in him that all the rest of the winners on tour have ' the intensity. He didnt have that before.
 
The Greater Milwaukee Open will be played again this week, but without Jim Thorpe - he has taken his game to the Senior Tour. But he will never forget what it was like to be on tour before 1985 ' and what it was like during three wonderful months in 85.
 
I talked to some people who think I should be pumped up or super happy about the year, but hell, I paid my dues, man, said Thorpe. I worked hard. Ive been on the road with no money. Ive been on the road with flat tires. You name it, and, you know, its happened to me.
 
So, when I won, it was a pleasant sight to see coming. But I really wasnt that surprised. All through the year I played on the tour, I played well enough to win. It was just that someone else played better.
 
But not at the end of 1985. For three months, Jim Thorpe was king of the golf world.
 
Jim Thorpe's Bio
 
Full Coverage of the 2002 Ford Senior Players Championship
 
Getty Images

Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.