Golf Talk Live - Jan Stephenson Transcript Segment 5
NOW HERE'S THE QUESTION THAT WE PICKED FOR YOU TONIGHT, JAN. AND IT IS:
IN AMERICA, PEOPLE FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT GREG NORMAN, ONE WAY OR THE OTHER. HOW IS HE PERCEIVED BY THE FANS AND MEDIA IN AUSTRALIA? THANK YOU FRED LENNOX.
WELL, IT'S EVEN MORE EXAGGERATED IN AUSTRALIA BECAUSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE - THE PRESS IN AUSTRALIA LIKE READING NATIONAL ENQUIRER EVERYDAY. UH, TABLOIDS ARE BRUTAL.
AND SO IN - IF YOU'RE IN AUSTRALIA, YOU EITHER HATE OR YOU LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE - HE ARRIVES IN A BIG FANCY JET. AND HE HAS A 5 MILLION DOLLAR BOAT. AND HE HAS HELICOPTERS.
AND YOU EITHER RESENT IT OR YOU LOVE THE FLAMBOYANCE.
WHAT'S THE REACTION TO KARRIE IN AUSTRALIA?
KARRIE'S VERY WELL RECEIVED. UM, A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE OF HER PERSONALITY. AGAIN, IT'S THE SAME - THE BASICALLY THE SAME THINGS AS OVER HERE.
IT - I THINK THAT THEY WILL LEARN - THEY'LL LEARN TO KNOW KARRIE. UM, I - I KNOW THAT THEY'RE REALLY PROUD OF HOW WELL SHE'S DONE.
LET'S TALK TO MICHAEL IN ALBERTA. GO AHEAD MICHAEL.
MICHAEL FROM ALBERTA
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING MY CALL. I JUST HAVE A QUICK QUESTION FOR YOU JAN. IF YOU WERE TO GIVE SOME ADVICE UM, TO A PARENT OF A YOUNG JUNIOR GOLFER THAT WOULD BE A FEMALE,
WHAT WOULD THAT ADVICE BE? IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAVE A REAL INTEREST WITH JUNIOR GOLF. AND MYSELF, I'VE PLAYED GOLF ALL MY LIFE AND I HAVE AN INTEREST WITH JUNIOR GOLF AS WELL.
I'VE GOT A - 2 COUPLE YOUNG NIECES THAT ARE - ARE JUST LEARNING TO PLAY. BUT I DON'T WANT TO PRESSURE THEM INTO PLAYING. AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY FOR ADVICE FOR THAT SITUATION?
THAT'S A GOOD ONE. YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE IT FUN. I MEAN, I LOVED TO PLAY GOLF WITH MY DAD. I - I JUST . WE - IT WAS MEANT TO BE REALLY A FAMILY THING. I MEAN, MY FATHER, MY MOTHER AND MY BROTHER, WE ALL PLAYED GOLF TOGETHER.
AND SO, WE HAD A LITTLE WEEKEND GAME EVERY WEEKEND. AND WE COULDN'T WAIT TO GO PLAY, AND IT WAS REALLY FUN. SO MAKING IT A FAMILY GAME IS DEFINITELY IMPORTANT.
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT YOUR DAD THAT MADE HIM SO SPECIAL THAT MAKES IT SO TOUGH TO LET GO?
HE WAS SO SOFT. HE WAS . HE - HE REALLY WAS LIKE SO SWEET. I MEAN, HE - HE WAS NOT LIKE - ALMOST NOT A MAN, YOU KNOW, NOT THE MAN THAT YOU THINK OF. I MEAN, HE WAS VERY SENSITIVE. AND - AND UH,
AND HE REALLY TRIED TO TEACH ME HOW - WHAT - HOW WONDERFUL SPORTS WERE. AND HE - HE TRULY LOVED SPORTS. I MEAN, WE DID NOTHING BUT WATCH SPORTS FROM THE MOMENT I WAS YOUNG.
I MEAN, I PLAYED CRICKET WITH HIM, AND HE PLAYED RUGBY. AND - AND OF COURSE, WE SWAM TOGETHER AND PLAYED GOLF AND PLAYED TENNIS. I MEAN, HE WAS A GREAT ATHLETE. AND UH,
HE WASN'T A VERY BIG MAN PHYSICALLY. AND SO HE - HE WAS ALWAYS AT A DISADVANTAGE. AND - AND UM, I KNOW I COULD BEAT HIM PHYSICALLY EVEN WHEN WE PLAYED RACQUETBALL.
BUT HE WOULD LIKE OUTSMART ME. AND SO HE WAS LIKE, 'THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING ELSE.' SO HE WAS REALLY SWEET. HE WAS VERY MUCH - TAUGHT ME THE MENTAL SIDE OF THE GAME.
WOULD YOU SAY THAT THE RELATIONSHIP YOU HAD WITH YOUR DAD IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP YOU EVER HAD WITH A MAN?
OH, WITHOUT QUESTION. THAT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE. (LAUGH)
I THINK IT'S BECAUSE OF HIM THAT UM, THAT I HAD SO MUCH TROUBLE WITH - WITH MEN, I MEAN, HAVING A GOOD RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE HE WAS SO HARD TO LIVE UP TO.
AND THEN UM, WHEN HE DIED, MY MARRIAGE FELL APART TOTALLY AND I HAD TO GO HAVE HELP. AND THEY KEPT SAYING, 'WELL, IT'S BECAUSE YOUR FATHER, HE ABSOLUTELY TOOK CARE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS THAT YOUR HUSBAND DIDN'T TAKE CARE OF.'
AND SO YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANY PROBLEM BEING MARRIED BECAUSE I WAS NEVER HOME. I WAS ALWAYS WITH MY DAD. BUT UM, HE --HE WAS FABULOUS. AND IT REALLY MADE IT TOUGH FOR ME TO FIND SOMEONE THAT'S SIMILAR.
WHEN HE TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE HIS DREAM DAUGHTER, DO YOU THINK HE MEANT IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU'VE DONE AND ACCOMPLISHED AND BECAME
OR BECAUSE OF THE RELATIONSHIP THAT THE TWO OF YOU HAD THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH WHO YOU WERE IN THE WORLD?
OH, HE LOVED ME NO MATTER WHAT. BUT I KNOW WHEN HE WAS UM . HE KNEW - HE REALLY TRULY KNEW ME. AND I KNOW THAT WHEN UM, HE WAS IN THE HOSPITAL AND HE WAS DYING, AND HE KEPT SAYING TO THE DOCTORS,
'IF - IF MY DAUGHTER WAS HERE, THIS WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING.' AND SO, HE COULDN'T - WHEN I GOT THERE AND I SAID, 'NOW THIS IS WRONG. THIS IS WRONG. YOU SHOULD BE DOING THIS.'
I - AND I HIRED A MAN TO TAKE HIM . HE HAD TO GO HAVE CHEMO (CHEMOTHERAPY) OVER IN AUSTRALIA. SO YOU HAVE UNDERSTAND ALL THESE SITUATIONS, AND - AND WE HAD TO GO OUTSIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER TO HAVE - FOR HIM TO HAVE HIS CHEMO.
SO I HIRED A MAN THAT WOULD TAKE HIM IN THE WHEELCHAIR. AND HE SAYS, 'SEE, I TOLD YOU, MY DAUGHTER IS INCREDIBLE. SHE CAN JUST HAVE - MAKE EVERYTHING WORK.' AND SO, I THINK IT WAS JUST THE RELATIONSHIP WE HAD.
NOW THEY, YOUR FAMILY, KEPT HIS SICKNESS FROM YOU FOR A LONG TIME, DIDN'T THEY?
IF YOU COULD HAVE CHANGED THAT AND KNOWN RIGHT AWAY, WOULD YOU HAVE GIVEN UP THE TOUR FOR THE TIME AND JUST GONE HOME AND BE WITH HIM?
I TRIED TO WHEN I FINALLY FOUND OUT, AND HE WOULDN'T HAVE IT. IN FACT, THE - THE WEEK HE DIED, I WAS - I WAS THERE ABOUT 3 WEEKS BEFORE, AND UM, HE SAID, 'I WANT YOU TO GO BACK AND PLAY'
`CAUSE WE WERE PLAYING - AT THAT TIME, WE HAD UH SENIORS LPGA MATCHES WHICH WERE FOR THE TOP-10 PEOPLE. AND I WAS PLAYING WITH CHI-CHI IN PUERTO RICO.
I SAID, 'THERE'S NO WAY I'M GONNA LEAVE YOU.' AND HE SAYS, 'NO, NO. I'M GONNA VISIT YOU IN JANUARY SO I WANT YOU TO GO PLAY.' SO WHEN I TALKED TO HIM ON TUESDAY BEFORE I LEFT FOR PUERTO RICO,
HE SAID, 'NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, YOU MUST FINISH THIS TOURNAMENT.' AND HE DIED HALFWAY THROUGH THE TOURNAMENT. AND - AND HE HAD MADE ME PROMISE I'D FINISH THE TOURNAMENT.
WE FINISHED SECOND AND I DON'T KNOW HOW I DID IT. BUT THAT WAS SO TYPICAL OF HIM.
GIVEN THE UNUSUAL NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP, HOW DID YOUR MOM HANDLE IT? WAS SHE JEALOUS? DID SHE UNDERSTAND? WAS SHE SUPPORTIVE?
OH, MY MOTHER'S ALWAYS BEEN INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE BECAUSE SHE JUST UNDERSTOOD WE WERE A TEAM. I MEAN, WE . EVEN THOUGH I TALK MY MOTHER - MY FATHER, MY MOTHER WAS ALWAYS PART OF IT.
I MEAN, WHEN WE TRAVELED, MY FATHER WOULD TAKE 6 MONTHS LONG SERVICE LEAVE, `CAUSE HE WORKED FOR THE GOVERNMENT IN AUSTRALIA, AND EVERY - EVERY 6 MONTHS BOTH OF THEM WOULD PACK UP EVERYTHING FOR 6 MONTHS AND DRIVE THE CAR.
MY DAD WOULD CADDIE. MY MOTHER DID MY LAUNDRY. SHE - I WAS REALLY INTO BEING A VEGETARIAN AND BEING HEALTHY. SO UH, SHE WOULD FIX ALL MY MEALS IN MY ROOM AND THEN THEY WOULD GO OUT TO EAT.
AND FOR BREAKFAST, THEY'D - THEY'D BOTH BRING MY BREAKFAST IN AND I'D EAT. I MEAN, I WAS LIKE . I WAS IN HEAVEN `CAUSE I HAD IT MADE.
AND THEN AS SOON AS WE GOT DONE PRACTICING, MY PARENTS WOULD TAKE ME TO THE GYM. AND THEN THEY'D GO EAT DINNER AND DO MY LAUNDRY AND COME BACK AND PICK ME UP. I MEAN, IT WAS JUST TRULY A TEAM THING.
HOW DISAPPOINTED ARE YOU, AS YOU LOOK AT IT NOW, THAT YOU DIDN'T TRY TO DO THE SAME THING, OR DIDN'T DO THE SAME THING, THAT YOU DIDN'T BUILD A FAMILY AND HAVE KIDS AND - AND BE THE MOM AND DAD THAT YOUR PARENTS WERE?
WELL, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE CHILDREN. UH, I'VE - I'VE ACTUALLY HAD 3 MISCARRIAGES AND FINALLY COULDN'T HAVE CHILDREN ANY MORE. SO THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I STARTED THE 'JAN FOR JUNIORS', THE JUNIOR GOLF PROGRAM
WHERE I DONATE A LOT OF MY TIME AND MY MONEY. UM, AND ANY . THE - THE SPONSORS I HAVE, IF THEY WANT ME TO DO STUFF, I HAVE - I MAKE THEM PUT MONEY IN.
AND I HAVE THESE LITTLE JUNIOR GOLF CAMPS. AND IT'S BEEN ACTUALLY PRETTY FUN FOR ME BECAUSE UH, I HAVEN'T BEEN AROUND A LOT OF 14 TO 16 YEAR OLDS. AND EVERY TIME IT'S MY TURN TO TAKE CARE OF THAT AGE GROUP,
THEY - THEY ALWAYS RUN ALL OVER ME. I MEAN, THE LAST TIME I HAD THEM ON THE DRIVING RANGE IT WAS PRETTY BAD BECAUSE UH, THEY - THEY SAID, 'WELL, WE - CAN WE DRIVE THE GOLF CART AND PICK UP THE GOLF BALLS?'
AND I WASN'T THINKING, I'M LIKE, 'YEAH SURE.' SO NEXT THING, I LOOK DOWN, THEY'RE ALL ON THE PICKER UP - THE GOLF BALL PICKER UPPERS. AND EVERYBODY'S SCREAMING AT ME.
AND IT WAS LIKE, 'WELL, THEY JUST ASKED ME.' AND SO, IT WAS - I HAVE NO CONTROL OF THEM BUT IT WAS PRETTY FUN FOR ME.
EVERYBODY'S THINKING 2 THINGS, ONE, YOU'RE A PUSHOVER, AND TWO, THAT THEY WOULD LIKE THAT JOB WHERE YOU WORK 6 MONTHS AND THEY TAKE 6 MONTHS OFF AFTER.
EVERYBODY'S READY TO SIGN UP FOR THAT. WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.
Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile
Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.
The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.
"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."
He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).
Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.
“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."
Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.
Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.
Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.
The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.
McIlroy gets back on track
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.
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.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
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.
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.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
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.
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.