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Randall's Rant: Time for Ochoa, Mallon in LPGA HOF

By Randall MellSeptember 26, 2017, 4:31 pm

The World Golf Hall of Fame unlocks its doors to Lorena Ochoa Tuesday night in its induction ceremony in New York City.

Here’s hoping the doors to the LPGA Hall of Fame will open to her soon after, because she deserves to be in both.

The World Golf Hall of Fame, which is separate from the LPGA, restructured its criteria three years ago, creating a “female competitor category,” which opened the door to more players like Ochoa and Meg Mallon, who haven’t met the LPGA Hall of Fame’s more stringent eligibility requirements. Laura Davies also was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame since the restructuring, even though she falls short of LPGA Hall of Fame eligibility.

We’re likely going to see a lot of women make it into the World Golf Hall of Fame before another makes it into the LPGA Hall of Fame. The LPGA’s Hall is the toughest to gain entry in all of mainstream sports, and it’s getting tougher with each passing year, with the growing international reach of the tour and the strengthening depth.

In the 68-year history of the LPGA, only 25 players have earned induction. Last season, Inbee Park became the first player in almost a decade to qualify.

There’s something especially unfair about Ochoa being left out, because of the neglected nature of the LPGA Hall of Fame’s operation.

Photo gallery: Lorena Ochoa through the years

Photo gallery: Meg Mallon through the years

Ochoa, 35, might already be enshrined in the LPGA Hall of Fame if its veteran’s committee had not inexplicably lapsed into dormancy due to inattention.

Hall of Famer Beth Daniel is working to address the neglect, though that won’t necessarily assure Ochoa’s enshrinement. Daniel is overseeing a 10-member panel that has spent more than a year in a massive review of the LPGA’s Hall of Fame requirements. The panel is evaluating everything from the strict points-based qualifying standard to the veteran’s committee that was set up to consider worthy exceptions to the rules.

Ochoa, 35, is a curious case, because in anyone’s book her achievements should make her one of the LPGA’s all-time greats. She falls short of LPGA Hall of Fame eligibility in one requirement, the 10-year membership rule.

Ochoa reigned as Rolex world No. 1 for 158 consecutive weeks, longer than any player since the Rolex rankings were introduced in 2006. She won 27 LPGA titles, two of them major championships. She was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year four consecutive years (2006-09). Kathy Whitworth and Annika Sorenstam are the only other players to do that since the award was established 51 years ago. Sorenstam won it five times in a row. Ochoa also matched Whitworth by winning the Vare Trophy four consecutive years. The great Mickey Wright is the only player who has won it more consecutive years (1960-64).

Ochoa compiled 37 Hall of Fame points, 10 more than required for induction. The LPGA awards one point for a victory, two for a major, and one point each for a Player of the Year Award or Vare Trophy.

Ochoa’s problem is that she was only an active LPGA member for seven full seasons, falling short of the 10 required for LPGA Hall of Fame eligibility. She announced her retirement early into her eighth season, back in 2010. If she had played full time through 2012, she would have been inducted in 2013.

Still, even without 10 years of membership, Ochoa should have become eligible for veteran’s committee consideration in 2016. The veteran’s committee was set up with the authority to review exceptions, but the committee went 10 years without meeting before Daniel was appointed to lead the panel’s review.

Ochoa’s and Mallon’s inductions Tuesday should be celebrated, not just for what they achieved, but for who they are as two of the great ambassadors of the women’s games. Mallon won 18 times, with four major championships.

The victory totals matter in the measure of greatness, but Tuesday’s induction raises the old question of whether fame should be judged solely by numbers.

While the World Golf Hall of Fame was too subjective for too long, the LPGA Hall of Fame seems too coldly objective. Ochoa is a shining example of that.

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 Friday and sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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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.

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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