Park deserves better than to stumble into the HOF

By Randall MellMay 28, 2016, 1:30 am

Inbee Park is in an awful predicament as she practically limps and wheezes to make it through the front door to the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Park’s induction should be a glorious affair, but it is quickly turning into what could be an embarrassing episode for both Park and the tour.

The LPGA Hall of Fame’s neglected state does not help Park’s circumstance.

Park deserves better than this.

Who wants to see this proud champion struggling to break 90 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in two weeks so she can qualify for LPGA Hall of Fame induction? It’s looking possible, though, with the bruised tendon in Park’s left thumb appearing to worsen, and Sahalee Country Club offering what may be the sternest test this season.

Park shouldn’t be out shooting 84 with an injury - like she did Thursday at the Volvik Championship - just to move a step closer to induction. It was her highest score in nearly 10 full seasons on tour and her third withdrawal after the first round this season.

After signing her scorecard, Park withdrew from the Volvik Championship so her ninth start of this year would become official. Park has to complete one round to get credit for an official start, not just hit an opening tee shot. She appears determined to make her 10th start at the Women’s PGA Championship, with 10 starts being the magic number she needs to meet the Hall of Fame’s 10-year membership requirement. She met the more difficult 27-point requirement when she won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average at the end of last year.

Park seems obsessively determined to qualify in Seattle in two weeks with family and friends making plans to be there.

All of this raises pointed questions about the LPGA Hall of Fame and whether its standards are overly burdensome and in need of sweeping review.

It also raises questions about Park’s future and how much she really wants to continue to play if she does meet the induction requirement in Seattle.

There will be those who will blame Park if she stumbles into the Hall of Fame with another high score, who will say, “What was the rush? What was the urgency to meet the 10-year membership requirement when playing through injury would hurt her preparation and recovery time for the Olympic Games?” The Games are in 12 weeks and every injured start now potentially threatens Park’s chances for a gold medal, which may be more coveted by South Koreans than a major championship.

These are legitimate questions that are already leading to speculation on tour that maybe Park is ready to begin the family she craves. If she’s looking to have children sooner rather than later, Brazil’s issues with the Zika virus have to be especially troubling to her.

When Park was asked Thursday about how the thumb injury affects her summer plans for the UL International Crown and the Olympics, her answer fueled speculation.

“I don’t know,” she said. “That could be it. I’m just going to have to wait and see.”

While retirement would be shocking, the LPGA has watched this play out before. Nobody saw Lorena Ochoa’s retirement coming early in 2010. She left the game as Rolex world No. 1 at 28 years old to start a family. Park turns 28 this summer.

The LPGA hasn’t made reaching the Hall of Fame easier on Park.

The LPGA Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee was created to periodically review induction requirements and to consider exceptions to its rules, to consider players who may be deserving of induction despite falling short of the requirements. The Veterans Committee, however, dissolved through neglect and is just being reconstituted this spring after failing to meet for several years.

The LPGA’s 10-year membership rule didn’t suddenly become a hot topic worth revisiting with Park’s quest this season. The LPGA should have seen this coming with Lorena Ochoa’s unresolved Hall of Fame issues.

Ochoa retired early in 2010 with 37 Hall of Fame points, far exceeding the 27 required, but she did not meet the tour 10-year membership requirement. She retired after seven full seasons. Ochoa won 27 LPGA titles, two of them major championships. She won four Rolex Player of the Year awards and also won the Vare Trophy four times. Ochoa seemed a perfect candidate for Hall of Fame induction via the Veterans Committee, and she became eligible for consideration last year, when she reached five years as an inactive player. But there was no Veterans Committee in place to consider her.

Park’s struggles to reach the Hall of Fame have an impact beyond her. The LPGA’s Stephanie Meadow was an alternate who did not get into the Volvik Championship this week and lashed out on social media Friday over the number of WDs (7) there.

“If you’re not ready to play 36 before the cut no matter what you shoot, then you should not enter,” Meadow wrote on her Instagram account.

Meadow clarified that there are legitimate reasons for WDs and that she wasn’t going after Park.

“Inbee’s situation is extremely unique,” Meadow tweeted.

Still, there is an awkwardness to Park’s run into the Hall of Fame that should trouble everyone who cares about Park and the LPGA. She deserves better, and the LPGA deserves better.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry