Out of Spotlight Sutton Moves On

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesFREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- In his final act as the Ryder Cup captain, Hal Sutton rose before dawn to meet the European team in its hotel lobby, giving the winners a gracious send-off by shaking the hand of every player.
 
That was two years ago.
 
Sutton has barely made a peep in public since then.
 
Its almost as if he put on his cowboy hat and rode into the sunset, tail between his legs, after being at the helm of an 18 1/2-9 1/2 loss that ranked as the worst ever for an American team in the Ryder Cup.
 
Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer
Hal Sutton's U.S. team fell badly at home to Bernhard Langer's European team.
He used a one-time exemption for career money to keep his PGA TOUR card this year, but only because he wanted to play the Nissan Open at Riviera, one of his favorite courses. Sutton missed the cut in February, sticking around long enough to see a lot of strange faces, wondering who they were and what were they doing in the locker room.
 
Or maybe they were wondering who I was and what I was doing in their locker room, Sutton said with a belly laugh, the sure sign hes living large again. Im OK with that.
 
Sutton can count on one hand the number of players who have called him in the last six months.
 
Hes OK with that, too.
 
Sutton has moved on to what he calls the second stage in his life, things he wanted to do as a younger man but never took the time because he thought golf was all that mattered, that success was measured only by the score on his card.
 
He opened Sutton Childrens Hospital in May, an 80-bed facility in Shreveport, La. The project was inspired by the death five years ago of 7-year-old Reagan Little, the daughter of longtime manager and friend Gilbert Little.
 
I chose to think golf was everything, that I had to perform, that thats where your self-worth came from, Sutton said. That was your identity, and you protect that. But the last five years taught me thats not nearly as important as I thought it was.
 
When he isnt at the hospital, Sutton can be found at Boot Ranch, the opulent golf club he is building in the Hill Country of Texas, a rugged piece of nature about 60 miles north of San Antonio and 60 miles west of Austin.
 
Sutton has spared no expense. The name plates on the lockers are made of sterling silver. The benches are covered with hides of ostrich, alligator and longhorn. Each member'former President Bush among them'gets customized boots to be worn on property, much like members in their green jackets at Augusta National.
 
The only evidence of his Ryder Cup captaincy is in the far corner of a garage below the clubhouse, where the red golf cart he drove around Oakland Hills is collecting dust.
 
The Ryder Cup is a distant memory, not necessarily a good one. That much was clear when Sutton was asked whether he enjoyed his two years as captain, and the answer was prefaced by a long pause.
 
Ill look back on it as a positive experience, he said. I think its the greatest marketing event in the world. Its a big to-do. And if somebody thinks you did something wrong, well, thats why its a big to-do. If somebody badmouths something I did, if in some peoples minute opinion they think putting Tiger and Phil together was a mistake ...
 
His voice grew loud, thick, determined, just as it was that Thursday before the matches when he announced Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would be partners for the first time.
 
They lost both matches, setting the tone for a European rout.
 
Heres the truth, Sutton continued. Do you think they were going to get through their whole career on the same team and somebody wasnt going to put them together? You think the world wanted to see it? Absolutely! I wanted to see it. You wanted to see it. You had your opinion whether it would work, whether I was right or I was not. And its easy to talk about now.
 
He was lampooned for wearing a cowboy hat, a gift from the caddies whom Sutton had made feel like part of the team. He buried Chris Riley for complaining about being too tired after winning a key match with Woods. He was so irritated with Mickelson that he benched him Saturday morning and told the press the Masters champion would be a cheerleader.
 
Did that cost the Americans the Ryder Cup?
 
Or was it because it took seven shots before an American hit the first fairway in the opening session? Or that no one could make a putt? Or that his team was tight, as usual, trying desperately not to lose instead of playing to win.
 
No matter.
 
Sutton suddenly was captain of the Titanic, the latest line of U.S. captains who get blamed for defeat.
 
Now the burden falls to Tom Lehman, who leads the American team Sept. 22-24 at The K Club in Ireland, trying to stop Europe from winning the Ryder Cup for the fifth time in the last six matches.
 
Am I prepared to get abused if we lose? Lehman said with a wry smile.
 
It has been so long since Lehman has spoken to Sutton that he thought it was six months ago at Bay Hill, not a a year-and-a-half ago.
 
We talked a long, long time, Lehman said. At the end of the day, he doesnt have great feelings about his experience. I cant speak for him, but I think it hurts him.
 
Paul Azinger might be the next U.S. captain after Lehman.
 
Ive thought about whether its worth it, and Ive decided it probably is, Azinger said. But theres a lot of experts out there that dont know squat.
 
Azinger called Sutton about two months ago when he had not seen him and wondered if his absence was voluntary. He was happy to hear about Suttons hospital and about Boot Ranch, and he checked up on Suttons wife and his four children.
 
He doesnt need this, Azinger said. Hes got a killer ranch, hes building a golf course. Theres not anything he can do out here that will change the way he is perceived.
 
And how is Sutton perceived?
 
Is he the guy who won The Players Championship and the PGA Championship at age 23? The player who lifted himself from a deep slump and beat Woods in a gutsy showdown at Sawgrass? The winner of 14 tournaments?
 
Or the Ryder Cup captain of a humiliating loss?
 
Theres a feeling I disappeared because I was embarrassed by what happened? Sutton asked. Embarrassment has never driven me off. Youre not trying if you havent failed. Im not afraid to fail, and I dont consider that a failure. I didnt hit a single drive or a hit a single putt all week. At the end of the day, failure is about whether the ball goes in the hole when it comes to golf.
 
I think theres a much bigger picture out here.
 
For all he has done in golf'a career that began by beating Jack Nicklaus at the PGA and culminated with a victory over Woods at The Players Championship'Sutton asked his father not too long ago what he thought was his favorite memory. The answer was the NCAA Tournament when Sutton was at Centenary, losing to Jay Don Blake of Utah State in a four-hole playoff.
 
The reason it was my fondest memory is my dad put his arm around me and said, You did the best you could, Sutton said.
 
Did his father say anything to him after the Ryder Cup?
 
He told me, Everybody is going to have an opinion. You did what you thought was right. Dont look back, Sutton said.
 
The hospital now has a 7,000-square-foot outpatient clinic that opened two weeks ago. A pediatric emergency department is expected to be ready this fall.
 
Indeed, Sutton is moving on.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • Getty Images

    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

    Getty Images

    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

    Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”