Awaiting Golf Hall of Famers
That rules out Craig Wood, Henry Picard and Denny Shute.
And that doesn't seem right.
Wood (1901-1968) might have been the Greg Norman of his generation, minus the yacht and the swagger. Known by his peers as the 'Blond Bomber,' he won 20 times on the PGA Tour and in 1941 captured two majors, the Masters and U.S. Open, after years of close calls and bad luck.
Wood was the first player to be runner-up in all four majors, including at Augusta National in 1935, when he was the victim of golf's greatest shot. Gene Sarazen holed a 4-wood from the 15th fairway for double eagle, then beat Wood in a 36-hole playoff the next day.
Picard (1907-1997) had 28 victories on the PGA Tour, including the 1938 Masters and the 1939 PGA Championship. He also was an excellent teacher who spurred Ben Hogan on to greatness by helping eliminate his hook.
Shute (1904-1973) for years was the answer to a trivia question - the last player to win consecutive PGA Championships - until Tiger Woods repeated in 2000. Shute not only won the PGA in 1936-37, he counts the 1933 British Open at St. Andrews among his 15 victories, and he played on three Ryder Cup teams.
'Those things are so long ago that modern people don't think anything about it,' 92-year-old Byron Nelson said Monday from his home in Texas. 'Golf has become so big. They just don't look back that far.'
Nelson played with them all.
He beat Shute and Wood in a playoff to win the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia Country Club.
And he doesn't understand why they are not in the Hall of Fame.
'They'll probably be put in one of these days,' Nelson said. 'They're a little slow about it.'
Those are only three names that continue to slip through the cracks as the World Golf Hall of Fame tries to move forward and backward at the same time.
Indeed, it can be a slow process.
'The dichotomy of new people being nominated and reconciling older players has been a challenge,' said Jack Peter, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
'We want to be inclusive. But we also don't want to open the floodgates.'
Golf's first Hall of Fame opened in 1974 at Pinehurst. When no one showed up because hardly anyone could find it, the Hall found a second home in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1998 and has been trying to catch up ever since.
Annika Sorenstam's induction in October brought membership to 100, and there is a sense it should be larger.
Baseball has 258 members of the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
Football has 221 at Canton.
The trick for golf is figuring out how to recognize the past without forgetting the present.
A few years ago, former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and former Royal & Ancient secretary Michael Bonallack were selected through Lifetime Achievement. Still missing from the Hall of Fame are the likes of golf course architect Alister MacKenzie and equipment pioneer Ely Callaway.
Those who have come in through the Veteran's Category in recent years include Tommy Bolt, a curious choice since he won 15 times with only one major championship. The Hall of Fame does not include Willie Park Sr., who won the first British Open in 1860 and wound up with four Open titles.
Park is the only player with four majors not in the Hall of Fame.
Even the PGA Tour and international ballots - voted on by golf writers, Hall of Famers, the board of directors and an advisory panel - make for some difficult choices.
Relatively fresh faces who have come up short of the 65 percent of the vote needed to be elected include Curtis Strange, Tom Kite and Larry Nelson. Newcomers on the ballot this year include Davis Love III and Vijay Singh.
They are mixed in with Wood, Picard, Shute, Ken Venturi and Doug Ford, whose careers are vague memories to most. Some people make fun of Ford for showing up at the Masters to play one round (if that) and collect $5,000, but his record is no joke: the '55 PGA Championship, '57 Masters, 19 victories on tour, four Ryder Cup teams.
Another element unlike other sports is that golfers are eligible for election while still competing. Bernhard Langer was inducted two years ago. He was tied for the lead briefly in the final round of the Masters last week.
'It's not as simple as baseball, where you're retired for five years,' Peter said.
Finding a solution is not simple.
Peter said the board met last week and assembled a committee to review an election process created only 10 years ago. The Hall of Fame, much like the game it represents, is constantly evolving.
'We're trying to build Cooperstown,' Peter said.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause
AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.
The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.
“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”
Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.
As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.
“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”
Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid
AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.
Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.
“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”
Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.
“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”
Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.
“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”
This week, let the games(manship) begin
AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.
What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.
During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.
“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”
Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.
“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].
Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.
Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.
“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”
Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.
“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”
While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.
But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.
“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”
It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”
McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”
It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.
“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.
Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.
Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana
While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.
The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.
"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."
Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.
According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."
"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."
Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.
Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.
"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."
Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.