Never Too Young for Golfs Hall of Fame

By Associated PressNovember 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
World Golf Hall of FameST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Nick Faldo was 40 when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, two years removed from winning his third green jacket at Augusta National. It was a humbling experience, even for Faldo, to be included among the greatest in golf.
'Now that I'm in the Hall of Fame, I need to play like it,' he said that afternoon in May 1998.
It was too late for that.
Faldo never won again. He never seriously contended in another major.
And that's OK.
Most athletes in a Hall of Fame are not even supposed to play again. Baseball, for example, requires its players to be retired for five years before they get put on the ballot. And that's why Monday night's induction ceremony at the World Golf Village again raised the question that has proven difficult to answer.
When is the right time to honor someone's career in a timeless sport such as golf?
This year's class ranged from Karrie Webb, whose first professional victory was the Women's British Open in 1995, to Willie Park Sr., who won the first British Open in 1860.
For those who believe athletes should be retired, if not in the gloaming of their careers, it must have been odd to see Webb, at age 30, becoming the youngest golfer inducted since the shrine moved to St. Augustine in 1998.
Then again, maybe the shock value had worn off from when Annika Sorenstam was inducted two years ago at age 33. And just wait -- barring a career-ending injury, Se Ri Pak will be 30 when she is eligible for induction in 2007.
Webb certainly has the credentials.
She made it through LPGA qualifying school on her first try, despite playing with a broken bone in her wrist. As a rookie, she won four times and became the first woman to earn more than $1 million in one season. Webb won the career Grand Slam quicker than anyone, male or female, capturing all four majors in a span of seven starts.
It's her birth certificate that makes the World Golf Hall of Fame unlike any other.
Webb felt a little out of place at a dinner Sunday night in a room full of Hall of Famers, such as Carol Mann and Tony Jacklin and Joanne Carner.
'I was just like, 'What am I doing here?' she said. 'I still don't really feel like I should be among these great players. I think that will always take a long time to sink in for me.'
But don't mistake that for an apology. And don't get the idea Webb would have rather waited until she was at least 40, the age minimum for the PGA Tour ballot.
Nor should she have waited.
There is no proper time to induct golfers into the Hall of Fame, so why not put them in when they've earned it? The Hall of Fame should be about performance, not age, and that's one area in which the LPGA Tour does it right.
The PGA Tour and International ballots are tied to minimal standards (10 victories for the PGA Tour ballot), but require their candidates to be at least 40. Players originally had to receive 75 percent of the vote until that was watered down to 65 percent, and further diluted with a loophole that takes the highest vote-getter on at least 50 percent of the ballots if no one otherwise would get in.
Ultimately, there is some element of popularity involved.
How else to explain Ben Crenshaw getting elected in 2002, while Curtis Strange still waits? Their careers were similar -- two Masters for Crenshaw, back-to-back U.S. Opens for Strange -- although Crenshaw never won a money title, player of the year, and never was considered the dominant player of his era.
For the LPGA Tour, it's all about winning.
Players now must earn 27 points -- one for each victory and major award, two for a major. There are no exceptions among active players. Laura Davies is stuck on 25 points. Meg Mallon has 22 points. Both have work left.
The only stipulation is they play 10 years on the LPGA Tour.
But age was never an issue.
'You get points and have to be consistent and play on top for many years,' Sorenstam said last week. 'If it is based on playing performance, it shouldn't matter what age.'
Sure, it seems strange that Webb fought back tears during her induction Monday night, and will be playing in the season-ending ADT Championship on Thursday at Trump International.
Then again, Sorenstam has won 17 times and three majors since her induction. The last male to win at the highest level as a Hall of Famer was Hale Irwin, who was inducted in 1992 and won the MCI Heritage two years later.
For golf, there's nothing wrong with Hall of Famers still in their prime. Webb regularly competed against Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster and Pat Bradley. Paula Creamer, the 19-year-old rookie, had two Hall of Famers as partners (Daniel and Inkster) as partners in her first Solheim Cup.
'It's fun to play some of your career as a Hall of Famer,' Webb said. 'I've loved playing with and getting to know some of the Hall of Fame members. I will always look at these players as though I can't believe my name is among them. Maybe it's harder to accept than if I were 45.'
Instead of asking whether 30 is too young to get into the World Golf Hall of Fame, perhaps the question is why Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods should have to wait until they're 40.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”