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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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.