McVeigh and The US Open

By Rich LernerJune 12, 2001, 4:00 pm
Monday of this week, the federal government put to death the man responsible for the worst terrorist act in U.S. history.
Timothy McVeigh was executed. It brought to an end for many'though some may always have unanswered questions'to a terrible six-year period.
This week, with a major golf championship at hand, the state of Oklahoma in a way begins anew.
The governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, has been a member of Southern Hills since the late 1950s.
His father was President of Southern Hills in 1960. Franks grandfather was an early mover and shaker at Oakmont in Western Pennsylvania. Franks father came to Oklahoma and found success as an oilman. Frank was a young boy here when Tommy Bolt won the 1958 U.S. Open at Southern Hills. He jokes that his father didnt want him to become a country club bum. He said worry not, hed become a bum in some other way. And in this case, bum is taken to mean he who loves what he does without regard to remuneration. Keating loved law, law enforcement and politics.
He became governor. And then when his beloved state became ground zero for homegrown terror, people got to know Frank Keating. They liked the plain speaking, confidant manner in which he presided over the aftermath. The governor told me that what remains with him to this day is not so much the savagery of the act but the way in which the citizens stitched together without regard to race, creed, color or class distinction.
Keatings hope this week is that visitors and viewers will replace the terrible image of Oklahoma that was seared into all of our minds with something else. Maybe the beauty of a golf course, not the charred remains of a building. Or the friendliness of the people, not the inexplicable hatred of one man.
Keating describes the people of his state as flinty and independent minded; naturally faithful. And thats remarkable considering how nature and man have dealt them such cruel blows. Oklahoma was the last state populated by a land run. People literally ran here or galloped here and staked their claim to what they thought would be the good life. But drought and depression brought about devastating poverty and hardship.
Steve Owens won the 1969 Heisman Trophy as a running back under Chuck Fairbanks at Oklahoma. Today hes a businessman and member of Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmund, Oklahoma with Scott Verplank, Bob Tway and the Edwards boys. Hes one of nine children, a product of the Dust Bowl. His dad crossed into Arizona for work for a dollar a day, was called an Okie, which was a stigma. Owens has seen it all. The Grapes of Wrath childhood, the Oklahoma City bomb blast in which he lost five people he personally knew, the killer tornadoes, the plane crash which took the lives of some members of the Oklahoma State basketball team. Owens says Oklahomans are tough and resilient. Theyve had to be. But theyre not hardened. In fact, theyre quite easy to get along with.
Keating relayed to me a line from Rogers and Hammersteins Oklahoma which he feels best describes the attitude of the people he governs. It goes, I dont say Im better than anyone else. But Ill be damned if Im not just as good.
From all of us who call ourselves fans of this great game, as well as fans of this great country that just six years ago was irrevocably scarred, heres to a United States Open as good as weve ever had.
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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.