Hall of Famer Ken Venturi dies at age 82

By Will GrayMay 17, 2013, 10:43 pm

Less than two weeks after being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, former major champion and noted broadcaster Ken Venturi has died. 

His son, Matt Venturi, said his father died in a hospital in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Venturi, who turned 82 on Wednesday, had been hospitalized the last two months for a spinal infection, pneumonia, and then an intestinal infection that he could no longer fight.

A native of San Francisco, Venturi won the California State Amateur in 1951 and again in 1956. In the latter year, he nearly won the Masters as an amateur, leading after three rounds before ultimately finishing second, one shot behind winner Jack Burke Jr.


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Photos: Venturi through the years

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The highlight of Venturi's playing career came in 1964, when he conquered challenging conditions, oppressive heat and severe dehydration to claim the U.S. Open title in a 36-hole finish at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. After the final putt dropped, he said 'My God, I've won the U.S. Open.'

It was his lone career major, and served as the 11th of 14 career PGA Tour titles. His Open victory led Sports Illustrated to name him its Sportsman of the Year for 1964.

After his playing days were over, Venturi went on to spend 35 years in the broadcast booth for CBS Sports, retiring in 2002.

That he became a broadcaster was ironic, because he had suffered from severe stammering as a child.

''When I was 13 years old, the teacher told my mother, 'I'm sorry, Mrs. Venturi, but your son will never be able to speak. He's an incurable stammerer,''' Venturi said in 2011. ''My mother asked me what I planned to do. I said, 'I'm taking up the loneliest sport I know,' and picked up a set of hickory shaft across the street from a man and went to Harding Park and played my first round of golf.''

As news of Venturi's passing spread, statements of tribute began pouring in from the golf world.

'I was very sorry to hear of Ken's passing,' Arnold Palmer said. 'He was a friend and an opponent and I had the utmost respect for him throughout his career. He was a great competitor and the golf world will miss him.'

'I was very upset and saddened to hear the news of Ken's passing,' Jack Nicklaus said. 'We all knew what a wonderful player Ken Venturi was, and how he fashioned a second successful career as an announcer. But far more important than how good he was at playing the game or covering it, Ken was my friend.  Ken was fortunate in that the game of golf gave him so much, but without question, Ken gave back far more to the game he loved than he ever gained from it. Over the years, Ken developed a circle of friends that is enormous and whose collective heart is heavy today. All those in and out of the golf community will miss him, just as Barbara and I will.

'If there is some sense of fairness, it is that Ken was inducted into a Hall of Fame that he very much deserved to be in and, in fact, should have been in for many years. While I know he was not able to be there in person for his induction, I am certain there was an overwhelming sense of pride and peace that embraced Ken. It was a dream of Ken Venturi's that became a reality before he sadly left us.'

“For the second time in a month, the CBS Sports family has lost one of its legends with the passing of Ken Venturi,' said CBS Sports Chairman Sean Mcmanus. 'Ken was not only one of golf’s greatest champions, but also the signature voice of golf for almost two generations of fans and viewers.  His stature, expertise and personality working in the 18th tower alongside Pat Summerall, Jim Nantz and the rest of the CBS golf team will forever be synonymous with the greatest golf events on CBS.”

'He was one of the finest gentlemen the world will ever know and one of the greatest friends you could ever have,' said Venturi's former CBS golf announcing partner and protege Jim Nantz. 'He was a deeply principled man with a dynamic presence. He just exuded class. Through his competitive days and unequaled broadcasting career, Kenny became a human bridge connecting everyone from Sarazen, Nelson and Hogan to the greatest players of today's generation.

'Kenny faced many adversities in his life and always found a way to win.  When I hear Frank Sinatra's 'My Way,' I will always believe that Ol’ Blue Eyes was singing that song for his close pal, Kenny Venturi. It makes me think of him every time. On his farewell broadcast in 2002 I told him, ‘You will be, always by my side.'   Five years later I wrote a book about my dad and father figures in my life. I named the book after that very moment.

'I'm so happy he lived to know he was going to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. I will cherish my 17 years working with him. But more than that, I will treasure the rich, personal, deep friendship that we shared for nearly 30 years.'

'The PGA Tour joins the world of golf in mourning the loss of one of its most treasured champions and ambassadors, Ken Venturi,' a Tour release read. 'His impact on the Tour and the game itself cannot be overstated. His tremendous accomplishments on the golf course were certainly Hall of Fame worthy on their own, but in Ken one finds a rare example of a golfer whose second career, in television, rivaled the legendary status of his competitive achievements. His unique perspective and poetic delivery as an announcer enhanced countless memorable moments in golf, making his voice and presence as in indelible as the historic tournaments he covered. Ken will forever be remembered as a consummate gentleman, and he will be truly missed.'

The World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Augustine, Fla., in a statement issued by Chief Operating Officer Jack Peter, said the U.S. flag at the Hall of Fame would be lowered to half-staff and a special tribute created in the museum in Venturi's honor.

'On behalf of the Members, staff and volunteers of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, we are saddened to learn of the passing of Ken Venturi,' Peter said. 'He was one of golf's iconic figures, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Ken's family.

'Ken made an unforgettable imprint on the game we love. He was a fantastic player, and captivated the nation with his thrilling victory in the 1964 U.S. Open. For 35 years in the broadcast booth at CBS, he was the warm, friendly voice millions invited into their homes to share his unique insights.

'When Ken learned he would be a part of the Class of 2013, he said, 'The greatest reward in life is to be remembered.' The Hall of Fame and golf fans everywhere will never forget the impact Ken had on the game.'

Battling a variety of health issues, Venturi was unable to attend the ceremony last week at the Hall of Fame, where he was inducted as part of the Lifetime Achievement category. Instead, Nantz, who was slated to introduce Venturi at the ceremony, accepted the honor on his behalf.

Venturi is survived his wife of 10 years, Kathleen, and his two sons. Matt Venturi said services were pending.


Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”