Hall of Fame Welcomes Sifford

By Rich LernerNovember 15, 2004, 5:00 pm
Im watching Franco Harris on a morning sports show and hes talking about the Immaculate Reception. That was 32 years ago!

For our greatest athletes, glorys cash register is always open.

As far as I know, plumbers dont have a Hall of Fame.

The worlds great plungers dont stand before thousands in yellow sport coats and recall the time when Joe Bunyon miraculously retrieved Elizabeth Taylors five carat diamond which slid down a drain pipe.

Maybe you get a watch or clock at the end of a fine career, but not a statue thats good for a thousand years.

Tom Kite laughed at the thought, and then looked up from a dwindling pile of balls he was using to paint a small circle around a flag 150 yards away.

Youre right, he said. Its pretty special.

As a society, we value touchdowns and homeruns and major championships more than we do plumbing acumen, though there are those emergencies when wed all take the plumber over the playoffs without hesitation.

The point is who among us is immortalized in bronze? Presidents and athletes.

Charlie Siffords bust, including the ubiquitous cigar, is no harder than the man himself.

He had to be for all those times they told him to eat in the locker room or that he couldnt stay at a particular hotel or couldnt play in a tournament he might have won.

The basic backbone of professional golf is stunningly simple. No matter your size, your religious beliefs or the color of your skin, what counts at days end is the score on your card. Whatd you shoot?

Sadly, up until 1961 when the door finally swung open for Sifford in Greensboro, that wasnt the case.

I never will understand why they didnt want the black man to play golf, Charlie once said. Nobody ever loved the game more than me.

He started as a caddy at Carolina Country Club for 60 cents a round and 36 holes a day. Hed give a dollar to his mom and then by cigars with the rest. Charlie started smoking stogies at 13, about the same time he started shooting par.

Not until he was in his late 30s did he get a chance to play against the very best. He won Hartford at 45 and then L.A. two years later.

Might he have won the Masters? Well never know. But Charlie Coody did. Tommy Aaron did. Were they appreciably better than Charlie? Doubtful.

None of the days big stars stood up for Charlie. The only one who voted for me, remembers Charlie of his bid to play Augusta National, was Art Wall.

Said Frank Beard, We could have spoken outbutit was a different era. Lousy excuse, I know, but we saw ourselves simply as golfers.

At 82, Charlie still makes a lively move on the ball. While our cameras were rolling he coolly knocked in a 15 footer for par on the final hole at The Slammer and The Squire course at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine.

Any lingering and justifiable bitterness seems to have faded. Im happy to be going into The Hall alongside Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino and Chi Chi Rodriguez, he says, the cigar continuing its staccato dance. Theyre all my friends.

Charlie Siffords journey is complete. With his enshrinement, were reminded that we were not always as great as the game hes loved for so long. Were reminded of what a difference one man with will can make.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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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 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

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.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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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 contacted 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.