PGA to Honor Renton Laidlaw
Laidlaw, 63, will be honored April 9, at the 31st Golf Writers Association of America Annual Spring Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Augusta, Ga.
Laidlaw, who has residences in Drumoig, Scotland, and Sunningdale, England, has been the original anchor for European professional golf since The Golf Channel began in 1995. From 1973 to 1998, Laidlaw was golf writer for the London Evening Standard. He has been covering golf continuously in print or through broadcasting since 1959.
'The PGA of America is proud to present this award to Renton Laidlaw whose professional career best exemplifies the global reach of golf,' said PGA of America President M.G. Orender. 'Few journalists today can match Renton's lifetime travels in golf. Beyond his love for people, Renton communicates his sincere passion for the game through an entertaining and insightful delivery.'
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Laidlaw spends most of his time at his Scotland residence 15 minutes from legendary St. Andrews. His career spans nearly 45 years in covering golf in print, radio and television.
'I'm overwhelmed by this honor,' Laidlaw said. 'When I look at the impressive list of previous winners it makes me both proud and humble. I never believed that I could ever be considered for such a prestigious award, far less chosen to receive it.
'I've had an amazing life traveling the world doing something I enjoy. I've been very lucky. Golf is a great sport to be involved with. I have been in the right place at the right time and when The Golf Channel came along, I was fortunate enough to be selected by them to front the European golf each week. I just try to be myself and say what I think.'
Laidlaw began his professional career in 1957 as a junior reporter for the Edinburgh Evening News, where he was first given the opportunity to cover golf. A decade later, while working in a freelance capacity for Reuters covering golf worldwide, he switched to television. He began as sportscaster for Scottish Television in Glasgow, and later with Grampian TV in Aberdeen where he became an evening news anchor. Later, the BBC recruited Laidlaw to return to his hometown of Edinburgh as news anchor.
Laidlaw returned to print journalism in 1973 when he was offered a golf writer position with London's Evening Standard. By 1975, he was combining television and BBC radio assignments on weekends. For 15 years, he was BBC Radio's golf correspondent. In 1990, Laidlaw was spending his full time in broadcasting with British Satellite Broadcasting, which was later taken over by SKY.
In 1995, Laidlaw broadcast his first European Tour event for The Golf Channel from Dubai, site of the Desert Classic.
In November 1997, at the conclusion of the golf season, Laidlaw underwent double bypass heart surgery but was back on assignment by the following January at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia.
'I was hardly gone and nobody had missed me,' laughed Laidlaw. 'I had gone in to have my gall bladder removed and the specialist discovered that I had an 85 percent blockage. I never had a heart attack, but it must have been close. I consider myself lucky to have been able to continue covering events worldwide.'
Laidlaw, a former longtime secretary and past chairman of Great Britain's Association of Golf Writers, is also editor of The Golfer's Handbook, a popular publication that originated in 1899.
'I think that everyone in Europe has benefited from the tremendous working relationship between the golf writers and the various ruling bodies over the past 25 years,' said Laidlaw. 'Because of the close cooperation, the working conditions for journalists covering golf are superb and that helps us all cover the game to the very best of our ability.'
The PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism honors members of the media for their steadfast promotion of golf. Past award winners include: Dick Taylor, Herbert Warren Wind, Jim Murray, Frank Chirkinian, Bob Green, Dan Jenkins, Furman Bisher, Jack Whitaker, Dave Anderson, Ken Venturi, Jim McKay, Kaye Kessler and Nick Seitz.
The award selection committee is composed of representatives from The PGA of America, PGA Tour, USGA, LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour, Golf Superintendents Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association, American Society of Golf Course Architects, the National Golf Foundation and past recipients.
Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.
At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.
Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.
In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.
Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.
Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.
Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.
''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.
''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''
Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.
''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.
''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''
Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.
Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.
''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''
Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.
Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.
''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''
The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''
The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.
''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'
Joel Dahmen had a 64.
''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.
''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.
''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.
''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.
Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.
''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.
Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.
Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.
Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence
NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.
Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.
Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.
“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”
Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.
With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.
“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.
Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.
Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season.
“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.
Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.
Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.
Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.
Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.
Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.
Nobody has ever swept all those awards.
There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.
“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”
Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.
The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.