OMeara Fishing for a Return to Form

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 9, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 AT&T Pebble Bch Pro-AmIn 1998, Mark OMeara won the Masters ' his first ever major victory in 18 years of professional golf. Three months later, he won the British Open. Because of both, he was voted as PGA Tour player of the year.
 
In 1998, Mark OMeara had reached the pinnacle of his golfing career. Things couldnt get any better. And, in many ways, he knew it.
 
I felt like I reached an area in my life where I never thought Id be, OMeara said Tuesday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Sometimes when you do that, for whatever reason you tend to slide down.
 
It was a steady decline for the then 41-year-old. He dropped from seventh on the money list in 98 to 45th in 99. He then went to 112th, and then 116th, and back to 97th. In 2003, he fell all the way to 143rd in earnings. It marked the first time he had ever failed to finish inside of the all-exempt top 125. And it was awfully bad timing, considering his five-year exemption from his major victories had hit their expiration date.
 
OMeara used a one-time exemption as a member of the tours top 25 all-time money winners in order to receive his 2004 card. He was only able to compete in 17 events, however, due to a hand injury and again missed the 125 cut, ending 10 spots higher.
 
But, all-in-all, last year was a moderate success ' particularly when compared to its most recent predecessors.
 
OMeara won the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour ' an event that featured the likes of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. He did so with the aid of a revised putting grip he dubbed 'The Saw' . That win, combined with a revival in his putting stroke, helped add a little fuel to his competitive fire ' one that was in danger of being extinguished.
 
Last year was a big year, because I felt like I really wanted to play again, he said. Now, can I compete at the level that I used to compete at? Maybe not. But the win in Dubai was big because there were a lot of good players entered, and I won again. That was a big confidence booster.
 
Ideally, OMeara would have liked to have capitalized on that early-season momentum (he won Dubai in March) and won again on the PGA Tour (which he hasn't done since '98). It didnt happen. And he was denied any opportunity of making a late surge to keep his card when he broke a small bone in his left palm in September at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
 
He thought that he could heal the injury with rest. That, too, didnt happen. And surgery was the only option.
 
This will mark Marks third event of the 2005 season. Hes playing on a Minor Medical exemption, meaning he has eight events to earn $79,396 (when added to last year's total, equal to No. 125 on the 2004 money list). If he does that, hell earn Major Medical status, which will greatly enhance his chances of getting into tournaments. If not, then hell have to pull a Blanche DeBois and rely on the kindness of (not-so) strangers.
 
Right now, Im feeling pretty good, said OMeara. Its not 100 percent, but its better.
 
Thus far, OMeara has played in two events, making one cut and collecting $9,552. But, if ever there was an opportunity to pick up some much needed cash, it comes this week at Pebble Beach, where OMeara has won five times.
 
I take a lot of pride when I look at the rock there on the first tee and (see) the amount of times Ive had success here, he said. Theres a lot of fond memories.
 
OMeara is once again ' he has been since 1997, when he turned 40 ' on the Hall of Fame ballot. Hes won 16 times on the PGA Tour, including the aforementioned majors. He has eight international victories. Hes a five-time Ryder Cup team member and a two-time participant in the Presidents Cup.
 
Those are overly impressive, if not Hall of Fame, numbers. The kind of numbers that when one retires, he can do so in peace, with positive reflection.
 
But OMeara isnt about to give up his golfing gig just yet. He thought about it a few years ago, when he considered giving television a shot. Then he came to his senses ' and it had little to do with his level of interest in the game.
 
Some people, in the middle of their lives, quit their jobs in order to focus on the things they really love to do. OMeara, in his own way, kept his so he could do the same.
 
Fishing was probably a lot of the reason I stayed with the golf. I knew I loved to fly fish, OMeara said. If I did a TV job, all of a sudden Id be working for someone else. I couldn't pick up the phone and tell (CBS Sports President) Sean McManus: 'Hey, the hatch is coming off in Provo. I cant make it to TV; I have to try and catch a few trout.'
 
OMeara wont be picking his tournament sites, however, based solely on the population of steelhead in the area ' at least not for the most part. He says that he has rededicated himself to his profession; and that he is ready to at least try and play like the Mark OMeara of old, not an old Mark OMeara.
 
That recently rediscovered passion is probably one of the reasons he feels a little burned by the PGA of America.
 
OMeara, of Irish descent, was among the favorites to be named as the 2006 Ryder Cup captain in Dublin. Instead, the honor went to Tom Lehman.
 
The PGA of America knew that I was very, very interested in the job, he said. The last two and a half years I lobbied pretty hard. I think the media knows that. I wanted the job. I didnt get it. Was I disappointed? Yeah, to be honest with you. But I congratulated Tom down in San Diego.
 
I think I would have done a good job, you know, I really do, he added. The only reason I wanted it was because it was in Ireland, because I have a tremendous respect for Ireland. I go to Ireland two times a year. I mean, I love the place. I think they love me. It just didnt work out.
 
Im not quite sure what their criteria is in how they pick their captains. If they go by record, certainly I would have thought I would have been the leading candidate.
 
Lehman has 11 fewer tour victories, three fewer Ryder Cup appearances, and one fewer major trophy than OMeara. But Lehman also had one less very public beef with the PGA of America.
 
Prior to the 1999 Ryder Cup, OMeara was one of the most notable players who questioned the PGA of Americas allocation of the tens of millions of dollars earned due to the biennial event.
 
At the time, players received nothing for playing in the Matches. Now, because of OMearas and others actions, each U.S. team member gets to donate $200,000 to charity.
 
In 97, 98, I approached the (PGA of America), I explained to them what was going to happen. I saw it all coming down the pipeline, OMeara said. And it became a nightmare and became an unfortunate situation for the players. It became an unfortunate situation for the PGA of America and the event.
 
Listen, everybody says its not about money, but life is about money, OMeara added. And not one player, myself included, threatened to not play in the Ryder Cup if we didnt get paid a dime. Even though it was written up as a controversy, thats not really the case. The case was, hey, we want to know whats going on, and thats not an unfair question.'
 
And does he think the incident affected his chances of being the next Ryder Cup captain?
 
Whether my reputation took a hit or not, whether that had a basis on whether they picked me or didnt pick me as a Ryder Cup captain, thats their choice,' he said. 'But I believe it was not (the case). Thats what they said, too. So well just move on.
 
Thats O'Meara's mindset for this season. After roughly six rough years with a draining desire, hes ready to move on.
 
Who knows, maybe O'Meara could find a little magic and actually make the team as a player. That, of course, is less likely than likely.
 
This is the more likely scenario: 'I'll probably be a steelhead fisher(man) that week somewhere on the west coast of the United States,' O'Meara said. 'It's not the end of the world.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Getty Images

    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

    Getty Images

    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

    Getty Images

    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

    Getty Images

    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.