Hall of Fame's treatment of Davies inexcusable

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2015, 12:29 am

So many women who love the game of golf felt the sting when the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony was staged without Laura Davies Monday at St. Andrews in Scotland.

This wasn’t just about one woman missing out on her big day at the home of golf.

This was about a lot of women seeing that the game is still run by men who aren’t as committed to diversity and inclusivity as they profess to be. That’s what Davies’ empty chair screamed during the induction ceremony.

Yes, women have made a lot of meaningful progress in the game, but somebody ought to put Davies’ empty seat in a display case in the Hall of Fame because it tells the story about women’s still ongoing struggle to find their place in the sport.

Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Karrie Webb and Meg Mallon were among Hall of Famers offended that the induction took place without Davies.

If you care about the women’s game, the empty seat is impossible to ignore or dismiss, whether anyone actually bothered to leave a seat out for Davies or not.

If this had been the year Colin Montgomerie was inducted, do you think the Hall of Fame would have guaranteed his arrival even if he were playing the U.S. Senior Open the night before?

Yes, I know, there are a lot of you reading this who think the airlines are to blame for Davies not being there because of flight delays. Or the weather’s to blame. Or that Davies is somehow to blame for choosing to play the U.S. Women’s Open, or for declining a very late offer of a private jet in Edinburgh once she was already racing time after a four-hour flight delay out of Philadelphia. Or that she’s to blame for insisting she wanted her luggage before agreeing to jump on a private jet to St. Andrews.

Total rubbish.

This isn’t about what happened in Edinburgh. It’s about how the World Golf Hall of Fame made what happened in Edinburgh such a fiasco.

Davies’ induction never should have come down to the Hall of Fame trying to rescue Davies when she was up against the clock after landing in Edinburgh. This never should have come down to whether she could make a connection there or whether her luggage would make it there with her.

This is about World Golf Hall of Fame officials failing to foresee the problem and prevent it even after they were warned 10 months ago by a pair of highly respected female Hall of Famers that this was fairly likely to happen.

Hall of Famers Daniel and Webb separately contacted a World Golf Hall of Fame official back in September to lay out exactly why this empty-seat scenario was possible.

When it was announced the Hall of Fame induction would be staged in St. Andrews, they both looked at the LPGA schedule and saw that the ceremony was planned the day after the U.S. Women’s Open was scheduled to end in Lancaster, Pa.

“We both individually called the powers that be at the World Golf Hall of Fame and expressed our concern,” Daniel told GolfChannel.com. “We saw that the timing would make it virtually impossible for Laura to fly commercially and get there on time.”

Daniel and Webb also knew that if Davies made the cut in Lancaster, she had zero chance of making the Hall of Fame dinner on Sunday night.

“That’s a big part of the inductees’ weekend,” Daniel said.

Daniel said a World Golf Hall of Fame official she preferred not to name made pledges to address the commercial travel issues Davies would face.

“They assured both of us that they would get Laura there,” Daniel said. “They also assured us that they would make arrangements so any of her mates on tour, who were in the U.S. Women’s Open and having a hard time getting to the induction ceremony, would also get there.”

Webb told GolfChannel.com she heard the same pledges.

“We were both assured she would be fully accommodated,” Webb said.

So, yes, the Hall of Fame might have done everything it could Monday to try to accommodate Davies, but what about the 290 or so days leading up to the induction? What about all the time between when Daniel and Webb warned them and the moment Davies stepped off that plane in Edinburgh?

When a request for comment about Davies’ plight was made Tuesday to a World Golf Hall of Fame staff member, GolfChannel.com was directed to the statement the Hall released on Monday.

“Laura's absence from the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is unfortunate,” the statement said. “Laura is a competitor, and we expected her to play well into the weekend at the U.S. Women's Open, which she did. As soon as her last putt dropped Sunday, the World Golf Hall of Fame and others onsite made every effort to get Laura to St. Andrews.”

There are conspiracy theorists who think Davies did not actually want to make it on time, that she sabotaged herself because she has a fear of speaking to large gatherings.

Total rubbish again.

Yes, after Davies made the cut Friday at the U.S. Women’s Open, she told reporters she isn’t comfortable giving speeches in formal settings. She even said she has issues with dyslexia.

“They were going to make me write a speech, but that would be a fiasco if I tried to read it,” Davies said.

But Davies also told us she had already mapped out talking points and would be totally prepared to ad lib her speech. While Davies acknowledged she would be racing the clock Sunday, she sounded genuinely honored to be headed to St. Andrews for the induction.

“I was absolutely delighted,” Davies said while still in Lancaster about being voted into the Hall of Fame. “It’s one of the highlights of my career, without a doubt.”

And when Davies did finally make it to the Hall of Fame reception after the induction ceremony ended, she was marched in front of the gathering there and gave a speech. She did so without suffering a nervous breakdown.

For whatever reason, there seems to be an effort to make it appear Davies didn’t really want to be there. You might even have heard folks wonder why Davies couldn’t make it to St. Andrews on time, but LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and USGA executive director Mike Davis were both able to make it. That’s because Whan and Davis were both in Scotland on Sunday morning. They both left Lancaster long before the final round.

There are also questions about why Davies, at 51, even bothered going to the U.S Women’s Open. Well, she’s a past champion. She won the premier event in women’s golf in 1987 at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. Plus, she’s trying to make the European Solheim Cup team, and there’s no better place to impress captain Carin Koch than making a good showing at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Davies took the high road answering questions after she finally arrived in St. Andrews.

“It was just unfortunate the flight messed up,” she told Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte. “Obviously, a different day would have been easier for me. It’s difficult to schedule at St. Andrews.

“I felt bad letting all those people down who traveled to be there. I was disappointed. I’m sure they were, too.”

The sad thing here is that nobody has supported the World Golf Hall of Fame more than the women.

When the PGA Tour moved the induction ceremony at its facility in St. Augustine to the week of The Players Championship, the hope was that it would lure more of the men who were playing that week. It failed miserably. Barely a handfull of the pros playing at the TPC Sawgrass bothered driving 25 miles south to the World Golf Hall of Fame to see the ceremony.

The women? They always turned out in droves. When Hall of Famers in attendance at the ceremonies in St. Augustine were introduced at the start of the program, it looked like a women’s club meeting was being called to order. Even the older male Hall of Famers made poor showings.

There were a lot of empty chairs at the ceremonies in St. Augustine because so many men didn’t care to show up. There was one empty chair in the ceremony in St. Andrews, but every woman who cares about golf noticed. That’s because they care deeply about a game they wished cared more about them.

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.