HOFer King pledges $1.3M to help end water crisis

By Randall MellMarch 22, 2017, 2:09 pm

Betsy King didn’t win in her first six-and-a-half years playing the LPGA.

She turned around her career with Ed Oldfield helping her make a swing change, and then she began turning around lives with the idea that she could turn her victories into something that really mattered.

King went on to win 34 LPGA titles, but she will tell you the 220 or so wells she helped build to deliver clean water to desperate African villages are more meaningful prizes.

At 61, that’s what makes all her victories still matter so much today. They’ve given her the platform to keep delivering what still matters to her. They have helped deliver clean water to suffering men, women and children in Africa.

Today is World Water Day, and King is celebrating it by personally committing to donate $1.3 million to the cause, $100,000 annually until she meets the pledge. The Golf Fore Africa foundation she founded in 2007 has pledged to join World Vision’s effort by contributing $10 million over the next five years. King is hoping her pledge will inspire others to join the cause at www.golfforeafrica.org.

“A lot of the world’s problems we can’t totally solve, but this one we can,” King said. “The world has come together with the goal that by 2030 everyone in the world will have access to clean water.

“If that happens, and I’m still living, I’ll be 75 years old. It would be neat to say I was a small part of that, solving the world’s water crisis.”

King will attend next week’s ANA Inspiration, the first major championship of the year. She first won it 30 years ago, when it was called the Nabisco Dinah Shore. She went on to win it twice more.

When King won at Mission Hills in ’87, she uncharacteristically leaped for joy at the 70th hole after holing out a bunker shot that helped get her into a playoff with Patty Sheehan. King was never one to show emotion as a competitor, but as a benefactor? You should see her dance when they first crack open a well to deliver fresh water.

King says her Christian faith got her thinking outside herself and the world of professional golf.

“I’m a big believer in having a purpose greater than yourself,” King said.

King has traveled to Africa to see dedications of about 15 of the wells her foundation helped build. She has taken LPGA pros on these trips.

“It’s exciting to realize people are going to have clean water for the first time in their lives, and it’s amazing to see the celebrations,” King said. “There’s music being made with homemade instruments, bongos, and everyone’s dancing. I’m a terrible dancer, but I dance with them.”

King is amazed at how precious clean water is, how something most of us take for granted saves lives and enriches communities.

Last year, King met a woman named “Excellence” in a small village outside Zambia’s capital who brought home how the delivery of fresh water transforms entire villages.

“She said it had been about two years since her village got clean water, and not one child had died in that time,” King said. “The water allowed them to make and sell bricks, and they made so much money that they were able to pay the school fees for every child in the village, and to buy school uniforms, backpacks and shoes for them. In the past, she said, families from the village didn’t like to venture out to places like church, because the people from the village smelled and were looked down upon. But she said with clean water they’ve become a model village.”

It’s why World Water Day means so much to King.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.