What the Hall? Ochoa still waiting for HOF recognition

By Randall MellNovember 6, 2015, 10:27 pm

Lorena Ochoa’s Hall of Fame career remains confusingly in limbo as she prepares to host her annual LPGA event in Mexico City next week.

Five-and-a-half years after announcing her retirement, nobody seems certain what her Hall of Fame status is or whether she will actually be inducted.

Ochoa isn’t sure, either.

“I have no idea,” Ochoa said when GolfChannel.com asked her in a telephone interview what she knew about induction plans. “I’ve heard no news. I did my best as a player, and it’s not in my hands. I have no idea how the rules work or about any new changes or the possibility for me to be inducted.”

The LPGA Hall of Fame is separate from the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the LPGA’s may be the most difficult to get into in mainstream sports. In the 65-year history of the LPGA, only 24 players have been inducted into its Hall of Fame. Nobody has made it in eight years, since Se Ri Pak was inducted in 2007.

Remarkably, as of today, Ochoa still hasn’t satisfied the LPGA Hall of Fame’s rigorous criteria, even though she has far surpassed the demanding points-based requirements. Notably, Ochoa, 33, is happily retired and expecting her third child, a boy, in January.

While Ochoa accumulated 37 Hall of Fame points, exceeding the 27 required, she did not meet the tour membership requirement for induction. LPGA Hall of Fame criteria state that inductees “must” have been an “active” member for 10 years to be eligible for induction. Ochoa was an active member for only seven full seasons before announcing her retirement early into her eighth season in 2010.

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 for low scoring average. A player earns one HOF point for an LPGA victory, two for a major championship, one for a Rolex POY award and one for a Vare Trophy.

If Ochoa had played full time through the 2012 season, she would have automatically been inducted in 2013.

Though Ochoa is three years short of the active membership requirement, she can still become eligible for induction via the LPGA Hall of Fame veterans category. A player must be retired or inactive five years to be eligible for nomination by the veterans committee. Ochoa met that requirement this year. If the veterans committee nominates Ochoa, her name will then be forwarded to the LPGA player membership for a vote. If 75 percent of the membership that responds to the ballot approves, Ochoa will win induction.

There’s a big problem with that, though.

The LPGA Hall of Fame veterans committee isn’t actively assembled and hasn’t been for a number of years. That’s why Ochoa’s in Hall of Fame limbo.

The 12-member veterans committee is supposed to include two members of the LPGA Hall of Fame, three members of the media, two members of the “golf industry” at large, one active player, one retired player and select members of the LPGA Board, LPGA executive committee and Tournament Owners Association.

No player has been inducted via the veterans category in 13 years.

No player has been inducted after a nomination of the veterans committee since LPGA founder Marlene Hagge was selected in 2002. Hagge, Donna Caponi and Judy Rankin are the only Hall of Famers inducted through the veterans category.

So what’s going on?

LPGA chief of tour operations Heather Daly-Donofrio said the LPGA’s focus helping the World Golf Hall of Fame develop new guidelines that include a new female ballot led to the dormancy of the LPGA’s veterans committee. The World Golf Hall of Fame unveiled its new criteria last year with Laura Davies being inducted off the female ballot. Davies has been sitting just two points shy of the LPGA Hall of Fame for more than a decade.

“Our focus has been working with the World Golf Hall of Fame in a feeling that’s now a great avenue for recognizing the accomplished careers of many more LPGA players who wouldn’t get into the LPGA Hall of Fame off points,” Daly-Donofrio said. “That’s why we haven’t had an active veterans committee the last couple years.”

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan serves on the World Golf Foundation, which oversees the World Golf Hall of Fame and its Selection Commission. Daly-Donofrio is a member of the Selection Commission’s subcommittee, which submits finalists for World Golf Hall of Fame consideration.

The World Golf Hall of Fame’s selection process for its next class of inductees will begin in the spring of next year with the class expected to be announced in October. Ochoa, who turns 34 next week, became eligible for World Golf Hall of Fame consideration this year. The WGHOF requires players to be 40 or to be at least five years removed from “active” tour membership.

While the World Golf Hall of Fame’s new female ballot has created speculation the LPGA might merge its Hall of Fame process with the World Golf Hall of Fame’s, Whan has publicly stated his tour membership wants to keep its Hall of Fame separate and intact.

Daly-Donofrio said she expects an LPGA Hall of Fame veterans committee to be reassembled sometime in the first quarter of next year.

“With Lorena’s accomplishments and the points she was able to earn in such a short period of time, she’s definitely on our radar,” Daly-Donofrio said. “I’m sure once the veterans committee is reassembled, and we start conversations, she will be looked at, as well as other players. Ultimately, that will be the decision of that committee.”

Ochoa’s brilliant career should be a lock for LPGA Hall of Fame induction once a veterans committee is reorganized. She also ought to be a lock to be among the next World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

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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.