Seve's lasting legacy

By Jason SobelJuly 14, 2011, 2:48 pm

The Open Championship [is] the best tournament in the world, in my opinion. … I have great memories from the Open. I hit so many good shots and so many good things that happened that it's hard to describe how good I feel. – Seve Ballesteros

SANDWICH, England – As if the vivid recollections of the three-time Open Championship winner weren’t persistent enough, his likeness is depicted on posters throughout the entrances to Royal St. George’s this week.

Exactly two months and seven days after the passing of one of the European Tour’s greatest legends, the impact of Severiano Ballesteros still reverberates at this tournament, still echoes throughout these links.

His legacy remains on the leaderboard, too, where through the first round of the 140th edition of this event, two of his countrymen have already put themselves in contention to become the second Spaniard to ever claim the claret jug.

Miguel Angel Jimenez posted a flawless 4-under 66, Pablo Larrazabal shot 2-under 68 and Sergio Garcia shot even-par 70 to stoke an early underlying subplot. Each still has 54 long holes remaining, but if either of the three could follow in Seve’s footsteps and win this championship, it would become quite the story – and surely an emotional one.

“The tribute to Seve here is very nice because we miss him and he made so much for golf all through his life,” Jimenez said. “We have to thank him for what he did for golf.”

What he did was ensure that the game grew globally, bringing a European flair to worldwide events. Much of that impact came at the Open, where he was a star almost from the start.

After missing the cut while laboring with a foot injury in his first appearance, Ballesteros finished in a share of second place at Royal Birkdale one year later as a 19-year-old, six shots behind Johnny Miller and tied with Jack Nicklaus.

“I was with my brother, Manuel, and I caddied for him in the prequalifier,” Seve recalled years later. “And then when I shot 69 the first day, they said, ‘Manuel, Manuel, congratulations, 69.’ He said, ‘No, it's not me. It's my brother.’ ‘Who is your brother?’ ‘This guy sitting over there.’ They said, ‘Oh, s**t, this is your brother? I thought that was your caddie.’”

Quickly after distinguishing himself from the bagmen, Ballesteros won the tournament by three strokes in 1979 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, then added a second title five years later and a third three years after that.

His significance was so weighty that even Garcia spoke after the roundabout thinking of him on the course.

“He did come to mind here and there,” he said. “Obviously, it’s hard enough already, so you want to try to give your attention on the right things. But yeah, he came to mind. It’s not only here. He’s going to be very missed for a long time.”

In particular, Garcia thought of his predecessor during a tricky up-and-down at the 15th hole. After extricating himself from the greenside bunker, he holed a lengthy par putt to remain at 2 under, only to drop two strokes on the final three holes.

Jimenez, on the other hand, claimed he didn’t think about Seve on the course, having surpassed the grieving period.

“I think it’s time to concentrate on moving on, starting to move on, because if not, you cannot play,” he explained. “We are human and it’s the moment to say, ‘OK. Go.’”

Whether Ballesteros remains a constant in his countrymen’s thoughts or rarely enters them, his impact on their careers remain to this day, with so many Spaniards on the leaderboard.

If he was still around, there’s no doubt whom he’d be rooting for, either. During his last trip to the Open four years ago, Jimenez and Garcia were both in contention late in the week, when Seve was asked if he would be cheering them on.

“Yes,” he maintained at the time, “I will.”

Those rooting for a heartwarming story will root for the Spaniards this week, too.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.