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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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”