Notes Webbs Loyalty Harringtons Strange Season

RSS

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- While introducing Karrie Webb during her World Golf Hall of Fame induction, former LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw said that even after she became a millionaire celebrity, she remained a small-town girl who appreciated those who helped her along the way.
 
That includes a family in Ocala who opened their home to a 20-year-old stranger from Australia.
 
Webb played the Futures Tour for two months in 1995 as she waited for the European Tour season to begin. To save expenses, she stayed with a host family during the Ocala tournament, which she won. Over the years, Craig and Debbie Mueller have been like a second set of parents.

'They're my American family,' Webb said.
 
The Muellers kept in touch as Webb made it through LPGA qualifying, her sensational rookie season, her 30 victories and six majors and her swift journey to the Hall of Fame.
 
Going into the final round of the '01 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles, Webb saw a familiar face on her way to the first tee and asked that the USGA allow the Muellers on the 18th green if she were to win. Webb won by eight.
 
'They've seen more wins than my parents,' Webb said, noting that her mother was only able to travel to one tournament a year from Australia. 'They've always been there. They come out to a couple of tournaments a year, and we talk every now and then. They're good people.'
 
Webb's parents, Rob and Evelyn, and both sisters traveled from Australia for her induction. The Muellers drove over from Ocala and stayed in the background during a reception, no less proud of the Australian kid they invited into their home 10 years ago.
 
PADRAIG'S OUTLOOK
Padraig Harrington isn't sure what to make of his year on the PGA Tour. He missed the cut in all three majors he played and had only four top 10s -- but two of those were victories, at the Honda Classic in a playoff and at the Barclays Classic with an 80-foot eagle on the last hole.
 
Sure, he was disappointed in his inconsistency.
 
But considering he has finished runner-up 20 times in Europe, he wouldn't trade the trophies.
 
'Life is a lot easier when you play badly and then all of a sudden you get in contention and win one,' Harrington said. 'No one gets on your back. When you finish runner-up seven times, everyone is asking, 'Why aren't you winning?' It's much more fun when you jump into a win out of the blue. It's a much tougher game when you play consistently well.'
 
Harrington mentioned Jim Furyk, who lost twice in playoffs this year at the Wachovia Championship and in Las Vegas. Furyk now is 1-6 in playoffs, losing his last six.
 
'I'm sure they're jumping on Jim's back for not winning all those playoffs,' Harrington said. 'But how good is he playing to get into them? Only that he's in so many playoffs does he have a bad record. The better you play, the more you're going to lose. Because you're going to be there more often.'
 
The Irishman was asked if he would rather have two victories and no other chances to win, or one victory and six second-place finishes.
 
Give him the titles.
 
'Runner-up is only for cash,' he said. 'I'm looking for wins, and nothing else. That's what you get judged on.'
 
Q-SCHOOL
John Engler continued his amazing recovery from a serious car accident by making it to the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying. Engler, who played for Clemson in 2001 when it won the NCAA title, required six surgeries after breaking his leg in a March 2003 crash.
 
Engler got through the second stage at Deerwood Golf Club, along with former tour winners Steve Stricker, Bill Glasson and Dan Forsman. Glen Day and Joel Edwards did not finish among the top 19, and will have to rely on their status as a past champion to get into events.
 
At Hombre Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Fla., Skip Kendall was medalist in the second stage, followed by former Masters champion Larry Mize.
 
Among those who failed to reach the final stage were Kevin Hall, the former Ohio State player who is deaf.
 
Also failing to advance was Casey Wittenberg, who has not come close to earning his card since leaving Oklahoma State in 2004. Past tour champions Nolan Henke, Ken Green and Jose Coceres withdrew.
 
Three more second-stage qualifiers will be held this week, with the final stage in Orlando at the end of the month.
 
EUROPEAN WORLD
The HSBC Champions event in China marked the official start of the 2006 season on the European tour, which will cover 22 countries on five continents, and won't reach Europe until the end of March.
 
There will be more tournaments in China (at least six) than in England (five), which again will host the British Open in July at Royal Liverpool. The first European tour event held in Europe will be the Madeira Island Open in Portugal the last weekend in March.
 
The busy part of the European schedule comes in September.
 
The HSBC World Match Play Championship, which offers the largest official payoff in golf, will be held at Wentworth on Sept. 14-17. From there, players head to Ireland for the Ryder Cup the next week, followed by the American Express Championship at The Grove just outside London.
 
DIVOTS
Europe and the United States each have seven players among the top 20 in the world ranking. ... Among those in Champions Tour Q-school are Lance Ten Broeck, who has spent the past several years as a caddie for Jesper Parnevik and Robert Allenby. Also in the qualifier, which starts Wednesday in Calimesa, Calif., are Mike Donald, who lost the 1990 U.S. Open in a playoff against Hale Irwin, and Eduardo Romero of Argentina. The top seven earn their cards. ... The Canadian Women's Open is raising its purse $400,000 to $1.7 million.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Marc Warren gave Scotland all three Order of Merit winners in Europe on the regular, senior and challenge tours.
 
FINAL WORD
'He makes more money this time of year than most of us make during the year.' -- Kenny Perry, on Fred Couples' play during the silly season.