Golf stereotypes brought to light last week

By Jason SobelMay 27, 2013, 2:01 pm

When I told my buddy Scott that I was going to mention him in my column, this was his response: “You mean the non-golf fan who thinks golf has an elitism and racism problem?”

At least he knows his role in our conversation – or debate, argument or whatever you want to call it – that we’ve been having for the better part of 15 years now. Scott believes in the antiquated notion that golf is a game for the upper-crust one-percenters, that its collective face is still too lily-white compared with our ever-evolving society. I counter with the fact that the world’s best player is multi-cultural and elite golfers hail from all corners of the globe, making it as diverse a sport as any. He thinks there are too many exclusionary policies and too few opportunities for those born without a silver spoon. I contend that many of the last bastions of segregation and sexual discrimination have been eliminated in the private realm, while more programs geared toward growing the game are sprouting every week.

Neither one of us has ever budged. But even though I haven’t pulled him over to this side of the fence, I’ve always been proud that my case has included more factual evidence than his, which is born largely on nothing but the loosest of opinions.

And then this past week happened, and all of a sudden Scott was armed with more ammo than he’s had in years.

It all started, of course, with Sergio Garcia’s comment about Tiger Woods at a European Tour gala on Tuesday night. When jokingly asked if he would have his acknowledged enemy over for dinner during next month’s U.S. Open, Garcia responded, “We will have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.”

The level of vitriol emanating from Wentworth and spreading worldwide was immediate and varied, depending upon the interpretation of malice. Some believe it was merely a playful jab, invoking the “everybody loves fried chicken” defense. But here’s the problem with that take: It should have been irrevocably undermined the minute Woods himself took to social media to call the comment “wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.”

When the target of such innuendo takes offense to it, who among the rest of us is qualified to contend that he shouldn’t feel this way?

The biggest takeaway from the situation wasn’t that it labeled Garcia – fairly or unfairly – as a racist, but that it shined a spotlight on an issue which has roots within golf’s foundation. Casual observers who know little about the game or those who play it professionally can point to Garcia as the smoking gun. No longer can my buddy Scott forge loose opinions on racial insensitivities within golf; he can now proffer a tangible example.

Actually, make that examples – plural. That’s because one day later, in trying to defend Garcia’s comment as benign, European Tour CEO George O’Grady said in part, “Most of Sergio’s friends are colored athletes in the United States …”

So much for Garcia getting sanctioned. That would have provided some precedent – and if there was precedent for his sanctioning, then O’Grady would have been forced to levy a similar punishment against himself. But, of course, the lack of transparency in golf’s major tours prevents this sort of precedent.

Such inactivity is in stark contrast to that of, say, the NBA. Two years ago, Kobe Bryant was heard on live television berating a referee with an anti-gay slur. Commissioner David Stern acted quickly, handing down a $100,000 fine for what he termed an “offensive and inexcusable” comment.

It’s almost shocking that the level of outrage over O’Grady’s comment hasn’t been stronger. Now this is purely hypothetical, but I’d venture to guess that if he was CEO of a high-profile company and used the term “colored” on live television, his gleaming corner office would be inhabited by the next guy in line before end of business that day.

Don’t think that’s a fair comparison? Fine. Then try this one instead: If Stern, who presides over a major sports franchise much like O’Grady, provided the adjective “colored” to describe a race of people, do you think he’d keep that job? Or would he be forced to resign immediately? If you don’t believe it would be the latter, you clearly haven’t been paying attention these last few decades.

Like they say, bad things come in threes and so it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when none other than Colin Montgomerie completed the unenlightened cycle by attempting to come to O’Grady’s defense in defense of Garcia.

“We’re all frightened to say anything; we’re frightened to open our mouths in case we say something that isn’t kosher in 2013,” Montgomerie said. “Somebody should tell us what to say because no one is quite sure what is right and wrong. George says ‘colored,’ somebody says ‘black’. But who is to say who is right and wrong?”

Each of these comments recalls the infamous movie line that Brian Fantana once whispered to Champ Kind: “Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.”

(Speaking of “Anchorman” – or at least anchormen – last week’s USGA and R&A joint ruling to ban anchored putting doesn’t do much to stave off the anti-golf crowd, either, most of whom already believe our rules are too rigid. Throw in The Associated Press report which claimed viewer call-ins for potential PGA Tour rules violations has increased since Woods’ infraction at the Masters, and we’re providing plenty of welcome fodder for the opponent.)

Between the ropes, the first five months of this golf season have been as mesmerizing as any in recent memory. Woods is playing the brand of dominant golf we came to expect a decade ago. Adam Scott was a popular green jacket winner in a must-see conclusion at Augusta National. Youngsters like Jordan Spieth and Matteo Manassero have proven that 19 and 20 are the new 25.

For those of us indoctrinated into the game, for whom the weekly pursuits toward titles are at the forefront of our temporal lobes, these are the major stories. We’re outnumbered, though. There are many more observers on the outside looking in and when they do, they don’t see smiling faces reflecting in shimmering trophies. Instead, they see an industry collectively stagnating while the rest of the world continues to evolve.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve defended golf against these long held stereotypes from outsiders about elitism and racism. So many others in our great game have, too. The events of the past week shouldn’t be enough to dissuade us from believing that things are moving ahead at a swift enough pace, but they do provide fuel for the other side of the argument. That idea in itself should leave us collectively wondering if there is a problem. And if so, how can we fix it?

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.