Payne Stewart More than a champion

By Rich LernerOctober 23, 2009, 8:53 pm

My most vivid memory from the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst was not Payne Stewarts winning putt but rather what happened in the press center after.

Unquestionably the gutsy 72nd-hole par lives forever as a testament to Stewarts fearless quality. He was also mischievous, which is no great revelation to those who knew him.

Payne Stewart memorial statue
Payne Stewart's winning putt in the 1999 U.S. Open is memorialized at Pinehurst. (Getty Images)

On the left side of a packed media room, I stood in front of a television camera, intently delivering my report on the momentous events of the day. Unbeknownst to me, Payne slipped into the gathering. Just behind me and seeing that I was oblivious, he began waving his arms, with that big smile of his, reporters erupting in laughter. It was a spontaneous, happy moment, albeit at my expense.

And it was pure Payne. He loved to play.

People forget though that Payne was a work in progress in the months leading up to that U.S. Open. He had opened himself to the possibility that he needed improvement, not just as a golfer but as a man.

I interviewed Payne at his lavish home in Orlando just before Pinehurst. It struck me that like a lot of men in their early 40s Payne figured it was time to grow up because suddenly time wasnt the best friend it used to be.

He had curbed his drinking because he saw how it affected his behavior and knew that his mother was an alcoholic.

We had a big family discussion about this, he said in 1999. Id come home and quite a few nights drink three martinis and it hit me that I needed to dial it back. Alcoholism is in our family and I know the toll it can take so hopefully I wont ever have to go through that.

Payne paid closer attention to his family because any kid would rather have a father first and a famous golfer for a dad second.

Hoggard: Stewart's legacy lives on in son Aaron

I think probably my family has made me mature more, Payne said. I need to set an example for my kids. I dont want them to act the way I used to act. I want them to learn through me.

Aaron was 10 and Chelsea 13. By all accounts today theyre both well adjusted, in no small measure because of the brave parenting of Paynes widow Tracey, but also because of the changes Payne had made in the final years of his life.

Payne also rededicated himself to his craft because he realized that talent wasted is an awful burden to grow old with.

I didnt want to look back and say I couldve done more, he said.

Soon after we talked, Payne won the U.S. Open. Given his sound emotional state, I wasnt surprised.

Payne also desperately wanted to be part of the 1999 Ryder Cup, certain he could help restore Americas sagging fortunes.

At Brookline, with that intoxicating patriotic brew producing some ugly behavior, specifically toward Colin Montgomerie, Payne tried to restore civility.

He conceded his match against Monty, even though it was one Payne was not going to win. Still, though, Payne did the right thing. And thats where Payne was in his life, at a point where doing the right thing ' with family and with golf ' was a priority.

And so 10 years after his greatest triumph and tragic death, Paynes story will always be instructive, a reminder that change is possible and healthy, that yesterday only matters if you learn from it, that tomorrows not promised. Its also a reminder that now is the time to act, time to smile, time to contemplate, time to be bold, time to care and the time to do the right thing.

What we do does resonate, in ways big and small. This day and forever.

Getty Images

Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.