Weiskopf - An Enigma

By George WhiteMay 27, 2002, 4:00 pm
Tom Weiskopf always was an enigma. At times brilliant with a golf club, at times so angry he was pitiful with it. At the Kemper, though, he was simply brilliant.
In the 1970s when the tournament was held at Charlotte, N.C., he virtually owned first place. He won for the first time in 1971, prevailing in a star-studded playoff with Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Dale Douglass. He had an easier time in 1973, winning a three-stroke victory over Lanny Wadkins. In 1976, he finished second, one stroke behind Joe Inman. And in 1977, he once again was the winner, this time by two over Bill Rogers and George Burns.
Weiskopf was the hottest golfer on the planet save Jack Nicklaus in the 15-year stretch between 1968 and 1982. He won 15 times, and during a three-month stretch in 1973 he won five times in eight starts, including the British Open. He finished second in the Masters four times, and at the U.S. Open between 1976 and 79, he finished second, third, fourth and fourth.
It was in 1984, after the Kemper had moved to Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C., that Weiskopf realized he had had enough.
I remember it very well, Weiskopf said. I walked off the golf course. That was the last year I competed on the regular tour. I was extremely frustrated when I played in that Kemper. And I later, about two months later, quit playing just because I was so frustrated with myself.
It had all started with a boy who was the son of a mother and father who were both outstanding golfers, with plus-2 handicaps. Despite the golfing prowess of mom and pop, Weiskopf didnt begin playing until he was 15 years old and a caddie in Massilon, Ohio. But when he finally played, he shot a 92 the first time out and he was hooked. He shot in the 70s within three months and accepted a golf scholarship to Ohio State in 1960.
At Ohio State, they had another pretty good golfer ' a fellow named Jack Nicklaus. He was an upperclassman, almost three years older than Weiskopf, but he was an invaluable friend to the young freshman.
He was very nice to me, Weiskopf said in a Golf World magazine interview. He showed me a few things, but mostly I just watched this guy. I had never seen anybody play like that.
Weiskopf, unfortunately, would be compared to Nicklaus throughout his career. Both were from Ohio, both went to Ohio State, both had awesome physical abilities. But whereas Nicklaus had a mental game second to none, Weiskopf was more or less an angry young man in his years on the tour. Weiskopf appreciated a challenge, but once he had met the challenge, he wasnt interested in doing it again. It eventually drove him away from being an active player.
It was a British Open victory over Johnny Miller in his banner year of 73 that first planted the seeds of retirement. I think it kind of ended my career, to tell you the truth, said Weiskopf. It was like, Finally I won a major. Its all over and I won the best.
He carried on, though, and in 1983 won the Western Open playing the best Ive ever played from tee to green for four straight days. After that, he knew he couldnt do any better. I knew I was through, he admitted.
When it finally ended in 84, Weiskopf hung em up and set his mind to designing golf courses. He and partner Jay Morrish have been hugely successful, culminating in the creation of Loch Lomond golf course near Glasgow, Scotland. A big European Tour event has been held annually at Loch Lomand leading up to the British Open.
Once again, though, he is eyeing his golf clubs and starting to think about playing some Senior Tour events. Who is this Tom Weiskopf, anyway?
My wife said it best about 20 years ago, said Weiskopf in 1995 at the U.S. Senior Open at Congressional. She said, Who is this guy that I am reading about in the paper, because that is not my Tom.
I think I was always a little bit of a misunderstood person I would hope that I am a different player than I was when I played here in 1984.
I never was one to blame the course or blame the situation or whatever. I always blamed myself, and sure, we do things that we are not very ' no, I wont say that. But yeah, I am a different person today. I would hope that I am. But I wasnt quite the individual that I think people portrayed me as.
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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.