Randall's Rant: Kerr exposes LPGA HOF shortcomings

By Randall MellApril 17, 2017, 5:12 pm

Cristie Kerr is the best American player of her generation, but her quest to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame remains an uncertain challenge as she nears her 40th birthday later this year.

If Kerr doesn’t make it, we might never see another American get into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Yeah, OK, that’s over the top, but it's intentionally so, with the suggestion meant to drive home a point.

The LPGA’s Hall of Fame has long been the most difficult in sports to make, and it’s getting more difficult with each passing year.

Last season, Inbee Park became the first player in almost a decade to qualify.

The LPGA has changed dramatically since its 27-point qualifying system was put into place in 1999, but the LPGA Hall of Fame hasn’t yet reacted, though there is an internal review going on now.

Where World Golf Hall of Fame voting in its past configuration was, perhaps, too subjective, the LPGA’s point system is too objective.

Can you really measure greatness solely by points or numbers?

The LPGA’s Hall of Fame review committee needs, at the very least, to rebuild its veterans committee, which inexplicably lapsed into dormancy, going 10 years now without being reorganized. The veterans committee was created to consider exceptions, players who didn’t meet the Hall of Fame points requirement but who were worthy of subjective consideration.

And there are lots of players worthy of consideration as exceptions.

For example, only five of the 13 LPGA founders are in the LPGA Hall of Fame. They all ought to be in there regardless of how many events they won. They founded the organization. There’s greatness alone in the sacrifices they made.

Lorena Ochoa easily surpassed the LPGA Hall of Fame point requirement, amassing 37 points, but she didn’t meet the 10-year tour membership requirement. She ought to be voted in by a reorganized veterans committee.

Laura Davies has 25 points, but she didn’t compete in as many LPGA events as she could have early in her career because she played so much internationally and wanted to support the Ladies European Tour. She deserves LPGA Hall of Fame membership based on what she has meant to Europe’s contribution to the LPGA.

Japan’s Ayako Okamoto didn’t start playing golf competitively until she was 22, then dominated in Japan but didn’t join the LPGA until she was older. She was 30 as an LPGA rookie but went on to take 17 LPGA titles, becoming the first international player to win the LPGA Player of the Year Award and the first win LPGA money title. She’s an LPGA pioneer.

Sandra Palmer, Hollis Stacy, Meg Mallon, Jane Blalock and Beverly Hanson are players who came up short on qualifying requirements but are worthy of having their records reviewed by a veterans committee.

Kerr will end up in the World Golf Hall of Fame, based on its new female requirements (15 or more victories, 2 or more majors). As soon as Kerr turns 50, or five years pass after she gives up active LPGA membership, she will be eligible for World Golf Hall of Fame induction.

With 21 points, Kerr is the leading active American outside the LPGA Hall of Fame. A player gets one point for an LPGA victory, two if it’s a major, and one point for a Player of the Year Award or Vare Trophy. Kerr’s 19 titles include two majors.

As for the crack about no Americans ever getting in again, Stacy Lewis definitely has a chance, with 17 points. That’s 11 LPGA titles (two of them majors) with two Player of the Year Awards and two Vare trophies. Lexi Thompson also has the potential at just 22 years old.

The thing is, it’s tougher to win an LPGA event today than it was 20 years ago, a lot tougher than it was 30 years ago and there’s no comparing today’s game to the LPGA of 40 and 50 years ago.

When Kerr was born in 1977, the LPGA was dominated by Americans. There were 32 events that year and 30 were won by Americans. Japan’s Hisako Higuchi and Argentina’s Silvia Bertolaccini were the only international winners. In ’75, there wasn’t a single international winner.

This isn’t meant to denigrate the achievements of a golden era of American players who earned their fame, but the explosion of the international game in women’s golf makes it a lot harder to win today than it was for Babe Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Pat Bradley, Patty Sheehan, Nancy Lopez and that early American contingent that dominated Hall of Fame qualification. Again, that’s not to say they weren’t great and wouldn’t be great today, it’s just an acknowledgment of how much deeper international players make today’s game.

Annika Sorenstam was the first international player to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame in ’03.

The LPGA point system is fine, as long as there is a veterans committee considering the records of retired players. Without that, is too coldly objective.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.