Trump boots biographer from Palm Beach course

By Al TaysJanuary 2, 2017, 3:35 pm

The short form of this story is that the author of a biography critical of Donald Trump got kicked off Trump's private golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla. - by the president-elect himself - on Friday. If you're into the whole brevity thing, that's pretty much it, other than the guy's name is Harry Hurt III; the biography, published in 1993, is titled “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” and the golf course in question is Trump International.

But, if you want to know the details ... there's a lot of he said/he said, a lot of "according to," and, well, don't say we didn't warn you. So here goes.

First, all this information comes from two sources: Hurt's account of the incident that he posted on his Facebook page, and an article by Politico, which interviewed several of the people involved.

According to Hurt's Facebook entry - in which he refers to himself in the third person - he "had come to play with billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, a Trump club member, and two other golfers."  Hurt approached Trump on the practice range, "only to suffer a tongue lashing from the president-elect."

“I said, ‘Congratulations, sir,’ and shook his hand,” Hurt wrote. “Trump said, ‘You were rough on me, Harry. Really rough. That [expletive] you wrote.’”


Newsmakers of the Year: No. 3 Donald Trump | Photos: Trump on the course


Hurt had written that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana alleged during her 1990 divorce deposition that Trump “raped” her during the divorce proceedings. Ivana Trump later said that she did not intend for her use of the word “rape” to be interpreted in “a literal or criminal sense,” according to a report in The New Yorker. Trump has denied the allegations.

Hurt said he responded, “It’s all true,” and Trump replied, “Not in the way you wrote it.”

Hurt said Trump then told him it was “inappropriate” for him to play at the club, and had security escort the whole group off the grounds. "David [Koch] was appalled," Hurt wrote. "He branded Trump ‘petty’ and 'vulgar.’"

The Politico report cited an official from Trump's transition team "who was briefed on the incident, but did not want to be identified discussing a testy exchange involving the president-elect."

According to the transition official, Trump told Hurt, “you’re out of here.”

Another member of the foursome, fellow GOP donor John M. Damgard, told Politico that “Harry just said he had been asked to leave. I thought he was kidding. And then I learned that there had been some previous bad blood between them from back in the '90s, apparently. Unbeknownst to us, he had written a book or an article that was critical of Trump.”

Damgard said that “rather than exacerbate something that wasn’t going to go very well, we just decided to get into the car and leave.”

A Koch associate told Politico that Hurt offered to leave and allow the rest of the foursome to continue playing without him.

“And David said, ‘No, we came as a foursome and we'll leave as a foursome,’” the Koch associate said.

The Koch associate said Hurt had approached Trump “as a courtesy.”

“Harry was with a young lady who was a friend and he thought it would be fun to introduce her to the president-elect,” Damgard said.

But the transition official said Hurt was “trying to instigate.

“The course security actually had to go and tap him on the shoulder and tell him to leave."

When Koch protested that Hurt was part of his foursome, security informed Koch that he could either leave with Hurt or play without him.

Damgard denied this, saying, “We had no interaction with security.”

“There was nobody tapping me on the shoulder, nobody forcing me out,” Hurt told Politico.

Hurt said he posted his account on Facebook “to have a true factual narrative of what happened when I was there between Donald Trump and me.” He said “I knew that this story was going to get out and that there are a lot of people, such as the Trump transition people … who were going to take different facts and twist them and say things that were not true.”

The transition official suggested to Politico that Hurt was looking for publicity. “The courtesy would have been to just tee off with David Koch and keep to yourself,” the official said. “He could have easily teed off with Koch, and nobody would have said anything.”

In the end, the group drove across town and played another private course, Emerald Dunes. Hurt described it as "a much, much better golf course than Trump International.”

We've played both courses. We like them both.

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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.