Remembering Payne

By Rich LernerOctober 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
We have the luxury of time. After five years its possible to unscramble those terribly complex human emotions we sorted through when Payne Stewart died. Shock. Pain. Grief. Acceptance.
Sitting here with a days activities ahead, with kids to get off to school and deadlines to meet, those words read like items on a grocery list. Wed each have to plumb the darkest depths of our own personal experiences to get a sense of how profound it all really is. Thats a tough place to visit.
Not surprisingly, there were detailed newspaper accounts this morning that swept me back to the fateful day.
A plane had lost contact but at a glance not control.
Someone famous may have been on board.
The windows were iced over.
Payne Stewart was on the flight.
There was no response. No response.
Minutes went by.
Hours went by.
With morbid fascination so many of us stood transfixed before the television. Were sadly accustomed to seeing grisly images after a crash. But this was so different. This was truly impending doom.
The memorial celebration in Orlando was befitting a head of state. The parking lot looked like a giant mushroom farm with dozens of white satellite dishes attached to so many network trucks.
Ive wondered why Paynes death reverberated so strongly far beyond the small world of golf. First, he was a famous golfer, our reigning United States Open champion. The guy with the tam oshanter cap and the plus fours.
Oh that guy, yeah, I know who youre talking about! was the standard reply from so many who may have watched NASCAR or opera or sitcoms but not golf.
Secondly, and I hope Im not in any way being insensitive, but his death was a famous death. There werent too many who didnt see it play out on television.
Most importantly, though, Payne was, pardon the clich, an American original, with a super sized personality. He was a genuine showman who dressed like he was starring on Broadway but competed like it was fourth and goal from the one in the final minute of the Super Bowl. Payne Stewart was a hell of a story and you didnt have to like golf to like the story.
Hed have been a Ryder Cup captain and Im not going to speculate as to how the outcome may have been affected either at Oakland Hills or the Belfry. We can leave it at this: a Payne Stewart captaincy would have been Fun with a capital F.
I do wonder how hed fix whats ailing the U.S. team. Would he have offered just the right words or just the right touch the way he did with Phil Mickelson after he made the putt at Pinehurst?
On the whole though, I dont think about what more he might have done had he lived because he lived so fully.
I do wonder if well see the likes of Payne Stewart again, someone with that much passion and playfulness and pride.
Its then that I get a bit wistful.
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner
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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.