Notes: A suggestion to improve HOF attendance

By Doug FergusonMay 14, 2013, 5:22 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – On a night of celebration, one of the embarrassing moments at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony was early in the program, when Hall of Fame members in attendance were recognized. The introductions didn't take very long.

There were only eight of them, all women.

''Getting players to come back has always been a bit of a challenge over the years,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''It does raise a question in my mind about whether this is the best time of the year to do it.''

Back in 1998, the inaugural induction at the World Golf Village was held in May. The ceremony also has been in the late fall. It has been indoors and outdoors. Finchem had to be persuaded to move it to the week of The Players Championship, fearing it would detract from the tournament.

Whenever or wherever, it's not working.

Here's one suggestion. The Tour should consider working with IMG (along with title sponsor PNC Bank) and move the Father-Son Challenge from Orlando to north Florida, near the Hall of Fame. The tournament is for fathers who have won major championships, such a long list that the Father-Son often has an alternate list. Make the Hall of Fame induction ceremony the centerpiece of that week, and it's sure to be a big night.

Attendance isn't the only thing under review.

One element of the Hall of Fame that becomes confusing is players being inducted in the prime of their careers. The minimum age to get on the ballot is 40. Phil Mickelson was inducted when he was 41, and he has won twice more since then. Ernie Els won a fourth major after his induction.

Golf is a game to play forever, but why wasn't the age set at 50, the same age when players are eligible for the Champions Tour? Why 40?

''I don't really remember why,'' Finchem said. ''It seemed to be the thing to at that point in time for whatever we were looking at.''

He said the minimum age has been discussed in the last couple of years, and ''it's currently under discussion.''

There's also the matter of having a PGA Tour ballot for the ''World'' Golf Hall of Fame. It sends a subtle message that this really is about the PGA Tour. International players get their own ballot.

''I think it's timely to take a look at everything we're doing and take a fresh look,'' Finchem said. ''We haven't done that in several years.''


WORLD CUP: Rory McIlroy said two weeks ago he would not be playing in the World Cup of Golf this year. There is speculation that if he were to represent Ireland at the World Cup, he would be have no choice but to play under the Irish flag in the 2016 Olympics.

But the announcement over the weekend that the World Cup was going to Royal Melbourne this fall under a new format piqued his interest.

Northern Ireland, for the first time, can field its own team.

''That might change things a little bit,'' McIlroy said before leaving TPC Sawgrass.

Graeme McDowell certainly hopes so.

''I need my partner in crime in Melbourne,'' he said. ''Regardless whether Rory wants to play or not, I want to play this year. If it works, I'd like him to be there, as well. But we'll see.''

McDowell spoke before he was aware of the change in format and that Northern Ireland can choose to have its own team.

Padraig Harrington smiled when told that Northern Ireland could have its own team. ''It suits me,'' he said. Harrington is the highest-ranked player from Ireland.

The $8 million purse will be divided with $7 million of it for the individual competition (which also provides world ranking points) and $1 million for the team. It will be stroke play, combining the scores of the two-man teams. The field will be capped at 60 players. Countries are allowed no more than four players – provided the additional two are inside the top 15 in the world – but the two players with the highest ranking will be the team. If the cutoff were now, and everyone wanted to play, Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) would represent the United States in the team competition.

Players and countries are selected from the world ranking until the 60-man field is set. There likely will be no more than about 18 teams.

Perhaps the strangest part of this World Cup? Royal Melbourne will hold two events in successive weeks. The Australian Masters will be Nov. 14-17, followed by the World Cup of Golf Nov. 21-24.


OPEN AND OUT: Louis Oosthuizen isn't making big plans to see Merion ahead of the U.S. Open because he's not sure he will be there. His wife, Nel-Mare, is expecting their third child on the Saturday of the tournament.

In a perfect world, she will have the baby the weekend before.

''But if it's during the U.S. Open, I won't play,'' Oosthuizen said. ''If it's Monday and she hasn't gone into labor, I probably won't go. When the doctor said the date, I looked at the calendar and said, 'Wow. Well done.' But family is more important.''

His other two children were born in December and February, so the South African hasn't had to cope with babies born around the majors.


OGILVY GETS HIS MATCH: Geoff Ogilvy missed out on the Match Play Championship in Arizona when he plunged in the world ranking, a tough blow for a guy who has won the event twice and reached the championship match another time.

But he won't be shut out from his favorite format.

Ogilvy was on the charter from Sawgrass to Bulgaria to take part in the World Match Play Championship that starts this week. His agent called him a few weeks ago to make sure he had no plans to play the HP Byron Nelson Championship and to let him know he might get in the Match Play.

''It wasn't even on my radar,'' Ogilvy said after missing the cut at The Players.

Nicolas Colsaerts is the defending champion in a 24-man field that includes Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson. There are eight groups of three players who play a round-robin format with the top two advancing to single elimination.

''It's a good format for me, probably – hopefully,'' said Ogilvy, who is having a year to forget. He not only failed to qualify for the Match Play in Arizona, he narrowly missed out on the Masters. He already has missed seven cuts this year. Match play is his favorite format, so maybe this can shake things up for him.

''Besides, when am I ever going to go to Bulgaria again,'' Ogilvy said. ''And it's a match play tournament. And they're getting us there easily. And I wasn't going to play Dallas, anyway. Why not at this point?''


DIVOTS: Jimmy Walker has made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour and only 120 tournaments short of Tiger Woods' record. ... Sandy Dawson of Australia, former captain and now president of Royal Sydney Golf Club, has been appointed captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews for 2013-14. He is only the second Australian appointed to the post. ... Ernie Ransom, president of Pine Valley Golf Club from 1977 through 2001, died last week at age 86. ... Phil Mickelson has confirmed that he will return to the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, a week before the British Open. ... The European Tour returns to Denmark next year for the first time since 2003. The tournament will be called Made in Denmark.


STAT OF THE WEEK: For the second time in his career, Woods won his last tournament before the Masters and his first tournament after the Masters.


FINAL WORD: ''Nobody has ever sued the Tour for being cleared of getting a drug violation.'' – Harrington on Vijay Singh's lawsuit.

Getty Images

Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

Getty Images

1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

Getty Images

Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

Getty Images

Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.